It took me forever to get through Thirteen Moons, which says a great deal more about my distractibility than about Charles Frazier’s writing. Set in the mountains near Asheville before, during and after the Civil War, the novel follows the life of Will Cooper from age 12 into his elderly years. Sent as a bound boy to mind a shop in Cherokee territory, Cooper’s life becomes intertwined with the Cherokee fate during the Great Removal, when nearly a whole nation is sent on the Trail of Tears away from their homeland out to Oklahoma. Cooper and his adopted father Bear remain in the mountains with only a few remaining Cherokee families. A tale of finding and losing love, wealth, family, status and home, a melancholy voice prevails across eight decades of adventure.
Frazier’s grasp of history–regional, national and even personal–astounds me. I can only imagine the long hours of research that went into making this wild tale believable down to the details of fashion and food. His clear love of the geography of the Appalachian mountains, first seen in his award-winning Cold Mountain, weaves through every page, beginning to end. It’s a tale of American history told from the vantage point of one mountain range, whose changes echo the changing world beyond. Unlike Cold Mountain, women play only an auxillary role in the book; we don’t get to know any of them from the inside out, only from the point of view of the men who obsess over them.
As long as it took me to read it, when I finished I was tempted to go back to page one and begin again.