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Nightwoods: A Novel by Charles Frazier

Nightwoods: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Charles Frazier

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7716611,991 (3.77)62
The Short of It:

The looming darkness of this story is unrelenting and wickedly constructed.

The Rest of It:

Set among the Appalachians during the 1960′s, Luce is a women who has literally turned her back on society. Working as a caretaker for an abandoned lodge, Luce takes pleasure in being alone. Her sister is dead and gone, murdered by a brutal man who took the term “got away with murder” to a whole new level. Luce’s life is suddenly complicated by the children that her sister left behind. Delivered to her by a social worker, she is forced to care for them and this proves much more difficult than it sounds. These children are broken, wild creatures that can’t be left alone with chickens or any other living thing. As she works to break down the barriers of communication, she finds that these children, the only remnant that remains of her sister, mean more to her than she is willing to admit and when her sister’s killer comes around for them, her strength is put to the test.

What a lovely little book. Dark, gritty but lovely in the way that only dark, haunting woods can be. I didn’t care for Frazier’s other book, Cold Mountain. In fact, I had a real aversion to it and forced myself to read it because I felt I had to. You know how it is, everyone was talking about and I certainly didn’t want to be left out of the discussion so I forced it down like castor oil. This was not the case with Nightwoods.

In Nightwoods, I was fascinated with these kids. Their wildness and the fact that they witnessed their mother’s death. What a horrible thing for them to have gone through. I was also taken with Bud, the man who killed their mother. He is the epitome of evil but dressed up all nice and pretty with equal doses of charm and swagger. When he decides to go after the kids, because he believes they know where some money is hidden, you know as a reader that he means what he says. His pursuit of them is unsettling as is their perception of what danger is.

Reading this was like being in the woods with all of its deep, dark secrets. It’s a very atmospheric novel and although I would have liked to know a bit more about Luce and her background, I felt as if I knew enough for this story to work for me. As dark as the subject matter is, it’s a good book to read if you want to escape from the day-to-day. It’s suspenseful, but not overly so. If you enjoy luscious, gorgeous prose… you will enjoy it.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | May 8, 2012 |
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I'm honestly struggling with this rating. I have such high regard for Charles Frazier's abilities. And I know that, if you want to study the approach of a master, you read his books more than once. Frazier has a true gift in describing the very being of his characters. For example, this quote from the first lines of the book: "Luce's new stranger children were small and beautiful and violent. She learned early that it wasn't smart to leave them unattended in the yard with chickens." And this quote tells you the guilt in violent Bud's mind: "It's cold and dry here. Dead leaves everywhere. Dark too, at the moment. But these bears are well known to nap all winter. As do snakes. After the first frost, the woods are safe as church. Which Bud rethinks immediately. Surely safer than church. Lifeless as these woods are now, all the blood must flow in summertime, whereas Jesus's blood covers the world every day of the year."

But there just weren't enough of these moments for me. Or, for my expectations of Mr. Frazier. So although a four is a high rating and probably correct, I somehow feel dissatisfied. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Not a consistently good read, but definitely worth sticking through. The last half is definitely more well put together than the first half. A well told tale. ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
Lola raised two kids and then was murdered. Her sister Luce took them. They would not speak and were very destructive.
The murderer is still around. Luce leads a very different life from most people her age. The rural area of Appalachia offers a good drama. ( )
  pgabj | Jan 23, 2016 |
The narration/reading by Will Paton was mesmerizing. Plus, I really liked the strong female character, Luce. ( )
  PaperDollLady | Dec 17, 2015 |
Another wonderful piece of writing by Frazier although I did not like as much as Cold Mountain. Life in the Appalachian mountains is well described with great characters and attention to detail. I felt the part about the two children a bit over the top, but ... ( )
  repb | Sep 14, 2015 |
Frazier writes with a deeply-evocative sensibility of the Appalachian mountains and about the current of violence that runs through the lives of some of the people who live there. The principal characters -- Luce and the two children of her murdered sister -- have escaped from the violence in their past by living in and isolated derelict mountain lodge where Luce is the caretaker. Violence continues to stalk them when the murderous husband of Luce's husband shows up and the novel moves toward a suspenseful climax.

The tone of the novel is somber and the plot line is enhanced by Frazier's skillful use of the mountain environment. The isolation the characters have sought as refuge they come to realize will not shield them and they determine in the end to confront the peril facing them in a dramatic fashion.

While not quite achieving the depth as Frazier's Cold Mountain this is nonetheless well worth the read. ( )
  stevesmits | Feb 14, 2015 |
Luce, a character whose strength is honed in solitude,, has retreated from her past and lives as caretaker of a remote, abandoned North Carolina mountain lodge.
Her sister Lily is murdered, leaving behind a girl and a boy, twins whose father died before their birth.
The mute, almost feral children arrive, by court decision, at Luce's doorstep.
Luce and the children are the heart of the story.
Bud, the stepfather, is in pursuit of the children.
He's been acquitted of Lily's murder but the children pose a threat.
Did they witness the murder?
Do " the children possess loot he stole, loot in turn stolen from him by Lilly, loot he knifed her for in a fit of rage."?

Also new to town is an old admirer of Luce.
Stubblefield is a thoughtful and kind man who has inherited the lodge.
He brings comfort to Luce and the troubled children.

These facts form the foundation of the story.
The mountains and countryside are beautifully depicted.
The characters are vivid and the consistent forward motion of the story keeps you involved.
The natural surroundings are an integral part of this tale.

A worthwhile read.....★ ★ ★ ★ ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 14, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Beautiful prose of North Carolina back country is lost on weak story of family feud. Slow start - warms to exciting cat and mouse through the wilderness - anticlimatic conclusion - left me feeling blah! ( )
  Carmenere | Dec 29, 2014 |
I just listened to this for a second time (Aug. 2014), not remembering it from the first time---still gets four stars. Frazier writes about the outdoors so fluidly that you can see it all in his descriptions. ( )
  nyiper | Aug 21, 2014 |
Highly unreadable. I got half way through and skimmed the rest. An interesting idea poorly executed. ( )
  lloyd1175 | Mar 22, 2014 |
Nightwoods. Charles Frazier. 2011. It has been so long since I have read Cold Mountain that I don’t remember much except that I did not like it as much as most people did, but I cannot remember why, but I really did enjoy this book! Luce lives a quiet life in the Appalachian Mountains as a caretaker of an uninhabited lodge until the two children of her murdered sister come to live with her. They are strange children: it is obvious that they’ve been horribly abused and/or exposed to horrors they cannot talk about. The children do not talk and to not have anything to do with anybody. Luce is still trying to build trust with the children when Stubblefield the grandson of the deceased owner of the lodge shows up. They are getting to know each other and life seems to be smoothing out when a stranger appears, takes over from the local bootlegger, and ingratiates himself among the members of the community. He her brother-in-law, fresh out of prison and determined to destroy the children. The suspense is intense and the prose is beautiful. ( )
  judithrs | Aug 29, 2013 |
This book was slow but southern. I loved it because it had that black grit in it that can only be found in the south. It had all the right things, murder, fire and wayward children. Can't wait for his next book. ( )
  Alexander19 | Jul 15, 2013 |
A very enjoyable story that captures nature, small town living, love... and death -- in a small North Carolina town in the 1960s. Very enjoyable storytelling, with strong characters and great dialogue. Simpler times and simpler living, but powerful storytelling. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Jun 29, 2013 |
The way Frazier paints nature (in these stories, Appalachian nature) reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer" - mystical, salutary and seductive.

His "MFA" manner of expression can be distracting and, as one critic put it, "ridiculously melodramatic".

I hovered between 3 and 4 stars, deciding to go with the latter, particularly because of the ending. ( )
  alexandriaginni | Apr 3, 2013 |
A bit slow, but pretty good. ( )
  pidgeon92 | Apr 1, 2013 |
Just received (thanks to the First reads program, YAY) and is set aside for reading and reviewing soon. Or sorta soon.

(4.5 stars is more accurate, really).

Frazier's story has the surefooted, inevitable feeling of a fairy tale. Not the ones with butterfly princesses, the ones streaked with smoke and grit and more than a little terror. It's beautifully written, each word falling in place like pebbles tossed into a mountain lake. ( )
  jarvenpa | Mar 31, 2013 |
I don't know exactly how he did it, but Charles Frazier managed to pull off a novel so radically different from his masterful Cold Mountain that I quit comparing the two less than a full chapter in.

His second novel, Thirteen Moons, never quit feeling like an attempt to tell a different story in the same voice, and, in my opinion, it suffered for that.

A much more contemporary setting (albeit in Frazier's trademark geographic environs), brilliant pacing that ends with pulse-pounding suspense, and characters drawn with the lightest of touch all combine to earn this literary thriller my highest recommendation. ( )
  BluesGal79 | Mar 31, 2013 |
Nightwoods is set in a very small town deep in the Appalachian Mountains, where the location imposes itself on the very lives of the people there. Luce is almost a hermit, living a solitary caretaker's life in a once grand Lodge, until she becomes the guardian of her dead sister's twins Delores and Frank. They do not speak or respond to others, are pyromaniacs and do not like to be touched. Luce teaches them what she knows, mostly based on her knowledge of the flora and fauna where she lives.

There are other characters in the book who come to be integral to the story: Maddie, a spinster lady with a horse name Sally; the younger Stubblefield, a man Luce's age who has come home to see what his father has left him (among other things the Lodge); Lit, Luce's estranged father and the drug abusing sheriff of the town; Bud, the twins' father and Luce's sister's husband, who is an ex-con hellbent on finding the money Luce's sister hid from him.

Although much of the novel is bleak, there is hope - for Luce, for Stubblefield, for the twins.
  Kelslynn | Feb 16, 2013 |
I enjoyed the story, it seemed a little drawn out at the end but the narrator for the audiobook made it bearable. The descriptions of the landscape were incredible, as how each character was portrayed and explained. ( )
  kristi17 | Feb 4, 2013 |
When I first read Frazier's first book Cold Mountain it really grabbed me and I though this book is an epic and will make a great movie - which it did. Not so with Nightwoods - it is a much simpler tale on a much smaller scale. It is also much darker in which a traditional battle between good and evil is playing out. I just thought the book moved along a little too slow and was overly atmospheric at times. Also. the graphic descriptions of various wounds in the book was a bit much. Still, the book is well written and even though it has a much more narrow storyline than Cold Mountain, it is still worth reading. ( )
  muddyboy | Dec 16, 2012 |
"Being lost means nothing. Especially when being found seems like a thing to avoid."

Charles Frazier has written a dark and disturbing novel filled with the lost and not necessarily found. Frazier's strenth is his ability to evoke all of the senses with his descriptions-- I smell the trees and I smell the fear. He balances the darkness of his subject matter with the possibilites of nature and this makes even the most heartbreaking somewhat tolerable. Nature vs. Nurture or are the two antagonistic at all? Frazier seemingly presents the necessity of the two hand in hand, in order for the human to be humane.

This was a goodreads giveaway. This is not a quick read although the book seems slight in stature. ( )
  hfineisen | Jun 23, 2012 |
I picked this up on a whim at the library. I was intrigued by it's stellar review on Entertainment Weekly and I remember enjoying Cold Mountain.

This novel takes place in 1960's Applachia. These people are poor, as in sucking pig spine poor. I draw the line at eating meat that's unidentifiable. The whole tone of the novel is run down, desperate.

Luce is a woman who has checked out of the world. A violent incident sends her from cheerleader to town recluse overnight. Intruding into Luce's insulated world is the mute twins of her murdered sister. If there is anyone possibly more damaged than Luce, it's them. Their hobbies included the murder of chickens and pyromania.

The bleakness is lifted by neighbor Maddie and potential boyfriend for Luce, who for some reason is given the maddening name of Stubblefield. The repeated overuse of the word Stubblefield started to crawl on my nerves. It would have been okay to use the pronoun he when referring to him once in awhile. Nit picking I guess, anyway back to the story. Just when it seems that a small, rag tag family is formed, Bud, the twins murderous stepfather arrives in town to terrorize everyone. While they escape his murderous rampage? Read the book to find out.

I had mixed feelings about the book. They were so mixed that I went back and reread the review that peaked my interest. The review confirmed what I already knew, the pace is slow. Slow like life in the Applachian mountains. The writing is undeniable beautiful though. I think I was expecting more of a thriller type story because of the murder premise. The actual murder and the hinted abuse of the children is actually secondary to the story. I think the plot was more driven by the idea of family relationships and that sometimes family is not who you are related to but who you chose to let in your life. ( )
  arielfl | Jun 18, 2012 |
There's nothing very original about this story of a killer on the loose and looking for revenge in a small town in the North Carolina woods, it's Charles Frazier's genius with words that lifts it above the ordinary. The story is so slight it could quite easily have been told in three hundred words - it takes Frazier 272 pages and still leaves you hungry for more. The language is incandescent, there's not a single paragraph that needs more telling, or less, each sentence seems tightly and beautifully wrought, each paragraph perfectly polished. An ostensibly simple story of love and revenge, told on a multitude of levels. In my opinion, this is as close to perfection as storytelling gets. ( )
  MayaP | Jun 16, 2012 |
In this novel, a single woman' who lives on her own in the countryside; decides to take care of her sister's twin children, as she has been murdered by her partner. However, the children are traumatized and things do not go smoothly. The beginning of the novel is slow and full of terrible events. All the characters seem to be damaged and not very likable. However, as the story progresses and the characters develop (and new ones are added to the picture) the mood of the story changes and there is tension, but also hope. The final part of the book is much better than the rest, and the open end is very effective. There are some beautiful descriptions of the landscape in the novel. ( )
  alalba | Jun 15, 2012 |
I hadn’t even realised that Frazier had written another novel since ‘Thirteen Moons’ until I picked up a copy of ‘Nightwoods’ in a secondhand bookshop, not that most secondhand bookshops go by that name now - instead "Second Chapter', 'A New Morning' . . . Anyway, although for me ‘Cold Mountain’ is one of a dozen novels I really like, ‘Thirteen Moons’ didn’t make the list so I briefly hesitated over ‘Nightwoods’ but now I’m really glad I bought it.

Frazier certainly has a way of creating a tone. He has many clipped sentences, often without a verb or without a subject. As well as this device taking the reader more directly to what he wants to convey, it also establishes a somewhat brusque voice which seems to me to complement the austerity of the setting and lifestyle of the characters. For, although you can work out that it’s set in the early sixties, I think, in this rural off the track place in America, it seems more like just after the second world war, the same sort of world inhabited by Loyal Blood in Proulx’s ‘Postcards’, one of my favourite half dozen books. In fact, I think there’s quite a lot of similarities in Proulx’s and Frazier’s styles. While both novelists have a lot of forward momentum in their books through suppressed suspense, in the case of ‘Nightwoods’ it being wondering what’s going to happen when Bud makes his move to get back ‘his’ money, they also have the ability to stop the reader with a turn of phrase. I particularly liked the part where Stumbleback surveys the land he’s inherited and when going past a remote spot where there’s a lonely house and he thinks he sees a pretty, young woman at the window – and then asks himself why he had to categorise the person into male or female and then why the pretty. His answer: ‘Probably because he was so damn lonely and because the schematic of our fool brains inclines us that way. Always looking for any opportunity to cast our sad little package of hope into a future we won’t inhabit.’ Here Frazier neatly excludes his voice from the novel, allowing Stumbleback’s thought patterns to emerge. The way that incident carries on with Stumbleback finding himself the victim of a broken mannequin and a deputy sheriff with a dry sense of humour made me savour the whole incident.

I also like the way Frazier takes his time unfolding the situation. I got a real surprise halfway through to discover that Lit was Luce’s father. I thought I must have missed learning this early on but found that Frazier had carefully been referring to Luce’s father without naming him. Finding this connection as well as the developing one with the dangerous Bud added to the uncertainty of outcome, especially with Lit taking drugs and upholding the law only as he saw fit.

How well is the story sustained, though? While Frasier employs another cold mountain in this novel, it didn’t have the same rising tension as his first book had. And while ‘Cold Mountain’ seemed an epic tale of effort and love, this one is a quieter tale of love where unease dissipates. ( )
  evening | Jun 11, 2012 |
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