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Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
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Thirteen Moons

by Charles Frazier

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Summary: As a twelve-year-old, Will Cooper is sold by his guardians to a man who needs him to run a trading post in the heart of the Cherokee Nation. With little more than the clothes on his back, his horse, and a rough map, he survives the journey there and settles into his duties. Bear, the chief of the local tribe, takes Will under his wing, and eventually adopts him into the tribe. Bear is trying to keep his world and his people together in the midst of a world that seems intent on changing things. Will is shaped by his connection to Bear, and becomes an ally in the fight to keep the land that is connected to them both. But Will is also bound by his love of Claire, the mysterious girl that he first met on the road, who is in the charge of the unpredictably violent Featherstone.

Review: I absolutely loved Cold Mountain, and on reading the description, I should have loved this book as well. I like Frazier's writing style, and there were lots of elements to this that sounded interesting: civil war, Cherokee culture, the interactions between the Cherokee Nation and white settlers at the time, the Trail of Tears, etc. But unfortunately, this book lost steam about halfway through, and it wound up being kind of a slog to finish.

The book is told from Will's point of view as an old man, as part autobiography and part reminiscence. The first part of the book, that tells of Will's growing up, his adoption by Bear, and the first stages of his relationship with Claire, was great. Frazier's writing is very atmospheric; the southern Appalachian mountains are a character in their own right (maybe even the main character), and I absolutely felt like I was back there. Similarly, Will going about the business of growing up was not particularly dramatic in terms of historical scope, but it was relatable, and interesting in its details, and the details of daily life. However, once Will got to his late 20s or early 30s - about halfway through the book - the scope of the novel got a lot more "sweeping historical events" and a lot less personal, and Will seems to recount his Forrest-Gump-ing through history from a much more distant and less emotional vantage point.

So that was where this novel stopped being enjoyable (if not a fast read; Frazier's prose is lovely but a little dense at the best of times) and started being a challenge to push through, where it went from personal and relatable to broader but flatter. Overall, I see the themes that Frazier was going for, the idea of change and progress and trying to hold on to what you know and love in a changing world. I also appreciate that this book got me to consider a time period and some issues that I'd never really thought about before (i.e. the Cherokee Nation didn't exist in a vacuum; there were Cherokee who owned plantations with slaves). But paradoxically, and unfortunately, the more the historical events picked up, the more steam the story itself started to lose. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not as good as Cold Mountain, but may be worth a try if you're interested in pre-Civil War Native American culture, or really love spending time in Charles Frazier's mountainous landscape. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Oct 2, 2014 |
I do not remember ever being more emotionally moved on a personal level from any other book, And I've read many! This is purely fiction; none of the main characters existed; they are figments of imagination placed within historical situations. For me, the story is generally interesting - tells a tale of a group of Cherokee's who were able to thwart relocation (The Trail of Tears) with the help of an old Cherokee who understood legal aspects of land ownership - so he outright bought and held deeds on a thousand acres of land; along with his "adopted" son, who becomes a lawyer, travels to Washington City and for years keeps this group of Cherokee's on their land through legal wrangling.
There is a lot of travel in this saga. The travels of the main character, Will, on horseback, carriage... rail road.... and the descriptions are wonderful! I know a bit of the southern states in which this is all taking place, and even though it is no longer open pasture and forest as it was over 100 years ago, the bones of what is described are still there.
The lives of the Cherokee are much discussed. As is the intermixing of the people - Cherokee and "white"; most often, it seems, the Scot's who settled in the South and often lived harmonious lived with the native inhabitants. Racial issues are discussed and are as unclear in this book as they were/are in life - then and now.
The emotional part was realizing at the end, there was a life long and seemingly fully lived, but never personally fulfilled. Other's I know who have read this did not see or feel what I did. But I stand by my verdict. Whether Mr Frazier intended to, or not, I see ultimately a story of a life unfulfilled. ( )
1 vote PallanDavid | Aug 16, 2013 |
I didn't like Thirteen Moons as well as Cold Mountain. This one had a little too much detail and I got bogged down. Also, I never really got the point of the book. It didn't really feel like it went anywhere, even after I had finished it. Although I did like the last scene of the book when he gets to shoot tourists everyday. Probably a sentiment we can all relate to, no matter where we live! ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Not exactly a gripping book, but it has a charm to it. presented as the reminiscences of an old man, it tells the tale of Will Cooper, who starts life as a boy bound in service to a trader and sent, with just a map and a horse, to the Indian reservation. Set at the time fot he Indian clearances, it tells of his interactions with the local tribes, his love for an indian girl and his generally adventurous life. Loses drive in his middle years, but that, in a way, echoes the gradual loss of enthusiasm and willingness to take risks of his youth and early manhood that ocurs with age. The book club had mixed opinions on this, but I have to say that I quite liked it. Not sure it would leap to the top of a list of reccomendations, but it was good and worth picking up. ( )
  Helenliz | Mar 31, 2013 |
This one was a let-down. I found it rambled too much, and boring in places. I guess after Cold Mountain, I had very high expectations. ( )
  shesinplainview | Nov 30, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Frazierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Patton, WillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smit, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Charles O. Frazier and William F. Beal, Jr.
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There is no scatheless rapture.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812967585, Paperback)

At the age of twelve, an orphan named Will Cooper is given a horse, a key, and a map and is sent on a journey through the uncharted wilderness of the Cherokee Nation. Will is a bound boy, obliged to run a remote Indian trading post. As he fulfills his lonesome duty, Will finds a father in Bear, a Cherokee chief, and is adopted by him and his people, developing relationships that ultimately forge Will’s character. All the while, his love of Claire, the enigmatic and captivating charge of volatile and powerful Featherstone, will forever rule Will’s heart. In a voice filled with both humor and yearning, Will tells of a lifelong search for home, the hunger for fortune and adventure, the rebuilding of a trampled culture, and above all an enduring pursuit of passion.

Named ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by
Los Angeles Times Book Review, Chicago Tribune,
and St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A literary journey of magnitude . . . Thirteen Moons belongs to the ages.”
–Los Angeles Times

“A boisterous, confident novel that draws from the epic tradition: It tips its hat to Don Quixote as well as Twain and Melville, and it boldly sets out to capture a broad swatch of America’s story in the mid-nineteenth century.”
–The Boston Globe

“Frazier works on an epic scale, but his genius is in the details–he has a scholar’s command of the physical realities of early America and a novelist’s gift for bringing them to life.”
–Time

“A powerhouse second act . . . a brilliant success.”
–The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Compulsively readable . . . a fitting successor to Cold Mountain.”
–St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Magical . . . fascinating and moving . . . You will find much to admire and savor in Thirteen Moons.”
–USA Today

“Genius.”
–Time

“Mesmerizing . . . a bountiful literary panorama . . . The history that Frazier hauntingly unwinds through Will is as melodic as it is melancholy, but the sublime love story is the narrative’s true heart.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brimming with vivid, adventurous incident.”
–Raleigh News & Observer

“Reading a Frazier novel is like listening to a fine symphony. . . . Take the time to savor Frazier’s work, to take in each thought, to relish the turn of phrase or the imagery of a craftsman.”
–The Denver Post

“[Four stars] . . . Commanding . . . Frazier’s faithful will not be disappointed.”
–People

“Superbly entertaining.”
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Fascinating . . . vivid and alive.”
–Newsweek

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:56 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

At the age of twelve, under the Wind moon, Will is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone into the Indian Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. It is during this time that he grows into a man, learning, as he does, of the raw power it takes to create a life, to find a home. In a card game with a white Indian named Featherstone, Will wins a mysterious girl named Claire. As Will's destiny intertwines with the fate of the Cherokee Indians, including a Cherokee Chief named Bear, he learns how to fight and survive in the face of both nature and men, and eventually, under the Corn Tassel Moon, Will begins the fight against Washington City to preserve the Cherokee's homeland and culture. And he will come to know the truth behind his belief that only desire trumps time.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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