When I received an advance copy of Charles Frazier’s new novel, NIGHTWOODS, I was tentative. His ON COLD MOUNTAIN was a difficult book to get into. It won awards and was made into a fascinating movie. But, it was hard. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, the verdict is in: It’s GOOD!
I was pretty much hooked from the get-go. The protagonist is a middle-aged woman living alone in an abandoned lodge the size of a hotel in the southern mountains of Appalacia. Luce, a never married woman with no children, has inadvertently inherited her murdered sister’s two very disturbed young children; Dolores and Frank. The State dropped them off, leaving all three of them to pretty much fend for themselves.
Enter Stubblefield, a man Luce knew from the past. Fresh from a bitter break-up, he thought he was ripe for a second chance relationship. But Luce shuns the closeness he offers. She’s become distrustful and used to being alone.
Frazier knows this part of the country. He writes it like the back of his hand. He fires it up and catches you unawares. The sounds, the sights, and the back woods people, are all accounted for in NIGHTWOODS.
The children have been abused by their mother’s husband. The one who murdered her. Yes, he’s in the picture. He’s portrayed as a blood-sucking bastard, which is just what he is. That and then some.
It seems that not one of these characters has ever experienced any sort of love. So when love appears, it’s not acknowledged, at least, not at first.
Dolores and Frank set out on a terror-ridden romp into the mountains with nothing more than an old broken down pony and some stale food. Their step daddy is after them. This is where Frazier’s intense familiarity with the region truly shines. And the tale becomes a page turner.
A test of utmost endurance, a true mystery, and a tale told with a great sense of place, NIGHTWOODS is a love story in more than just the traditional way and a thriller not to be missed. One of the best of the great fall line-up.