Author: Charles Frazier
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
It’s the 1950s in Appalachia, and Luce’s sister, Lily, has just been murdered. Luce suspects that Bud, Lily’s husband, was responsible for her death and she decides to take in Lily’s two young children. However, she is completely unprepared for how traumatized the children are after seeing their mother killed in front of them – they run completely wild and refuse to speak. But Luce is determined to protect them from Bud, who knows that these children are the only witnesses to his crime, no matter what the cost.
Charles Frazier is famous for his evocative portrayala of North Carolina in his books, and Nightwoods is no exception. Though the novel shares a place with his most famous novel, Cold Mountain, the time is different. It’s the mid-twentieth century, rather than the Civil War, though the book could easily have taken place one hundred years ago or one year ago. It has a certain timeless quality; life hasn’t changed much in rural Appalachia over the years, as Frazier makes clear.
Frazier’s writing is simply breathtaking in Nightwoods. His writing is lush and descriptive. He’s generous with the setting, giving the readers the smallest details in order to make the book come alive. This is a very literary novel; though the book has a suspenseful basic plotline, the story seems to meander at times. It doesn’t move quickly, instead letting the reader revel in every word and phrase that Frazier deigns to provide. If you’re looking for a quick, snappy read, this isn’t necessarily the book to pick up. Instead, it’s a great choice if you’re looking to be completely immersed in a new place.
Luce is a smart character, one that readers will appreciate and sympathize with. She has been thrust into a difficult situation over which she has no control. Of course she wants to protect her niece and nephew, but how is she supposed to do that when they refuse to communicate with her? When they ignore her every request? It’s clear the children are absolutely traumatized, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. Luce is fiercely loyal; she refuses to compromise her morals, which is a wonderful quality.
Nightwoods is a perfect read if you’re looking for a quiet but moderately suspenseful read. The book does move slowly, which makes it difficult to read at times, but overall Frazier has done a solid job incorporating a thriller storyline into a novel of literary fiction. If you’re looking for a haunting story of love with three-dimensional characters and an incredible sense of place, this is the book you want to pick up.