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by Charles Frazier
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When you're already a misandrist and misanthropist, it's hard to read this book. The story takes place in a time when few HUmans lived in North America, and the description of the land is achingly beautiful. ( )
Charles Frazier is a master of storytelling in the tradition of those ancient storytellers who recited their lore before camp fires and in public places. I can understand why he is at home with his subject matter in Thirteen Moons, as the lives of American indians were passed in just such a manner. Will Cooper bears witness to a sad and shameful period of history, but does so without sentimentality, blame, or the shirking of blame. Will, Claire, Featherstone and Bear emerge as three-dimensional characters who fit their times and the likes of whom it would be hard to find today.
We are seldom any longer presented with a writer whose intent is to do more than tell us a story but instead to inform our lives. Frazier has literary genius. When the palaver of the bestseller list has faded into obscurity, I like to believe there will be an English teacher somewhere teaching this novel and its lessons to a class of rapt students.
Not as good as Cold Mountain of course but still impressive
There’s a lot to like in ‘Thirteen Moons’. First, probably, is the incredible job Frazier does in describing the hardwood forest environment of the Cherokee Territory that encompassed 140,000 square miles over land that later became parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. When Will Cooper rides through this wild and beautiful landscape, the reader is right there with him, whether admiring it or struggling to survive in it.
Frazier also uses vocabulary that may have the reader searching through obscure word lists – the first sentence of the book declares that “there is no scatheless rapture” – but which continually conjures believable vocabulary and language usage of the post-Revolutionary, pre-Western expansion period of U.S. history.
And the background upon which he has placed this fictional memoir is one of the saddest and perhaps most misunderstood events in the clashes between European settlers and the native inhabitants – the dissolution of the Cherokee Territory and the forced relocation of its inhabitants to what eventually became Oklahoma, along the Trail of Tears (which Frazier accurately renders as “the trail where they cried”. Like any vibrant and living culture, that of the Cherokee was not monolithic. There were multiple factions and wildly varying responses to the nascent United States’ demands; while Frazier doesn’t go into great detail (the book would have been 1400 pages instead of 400 if he had done so), he spends enough time on it to get the job done. The job being to portray the attempts of his main character to help his adopted clan stay in their ancestral home.
Less satisfying is the character development of two of the main characters in the book – Claire, the woman Will loves, and the morally ambiguous Featherstone, whose presence in Claire’s life makes the budding romance between her and Will tenuous at best and impossible at worst. The problem is that we really never quite understand why Will seems to continue to respect Featherstone; why he doesn’t take what would appear to be the logical action when their conflict erupts into the open. Nor are we ever made privy to the reasons Claire keeps walking away from Will,
These problems keep the book from being truly remarkable; even with them, it is a rich and satisfying read.
An intriguing and entertaining tale with insightful passages about the demise of the American Indians and life in general, particularly love, loss, and aging.
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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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