Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons: A Novel

Well, it grieves me to write this, but here is my review of Charles Frazier’s second novel, Thirteen Moons: A Novel:  Don’t buy it.  It grieves me because Cold Mountain, Frazier’s first novel, remains one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, and I’ve been waiting for Frazier to write again.  He was reportedly given an $8 million advance for writing Thirteen Moons, and maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe that’s not a healthy thing to do to a new author.

Thirteen Moons is the story of Will Cooper’s life among the Cherokee Indians of the Smokey Mountains before, during, and after the Civil War.  It chronicles the dissolution of the Indian Nation and their deportation to the West, all told through the eyes of Will Cooper:  a white man who lives among the Indians and becomes something of a surrogate chief and advocate for them during these tempestuous years.

Here are the good points:  Frazier can flat-out write.  He has a great command of words and tells a story well.  The chapter on the duel was tremendous and has stayed with me.  He tells the story of the Indians very well and you feel like you’ve not only learned what American Indians must have been thinking when the U.S. Government began sending them out West, but you’re also drawn into their world with such effectiveness that you truly sympathize with their plight.  Also, his depictions of ante-bellum Washington, D.C., and Will Turner’s meetings with John C. Calhoun, Davy Crockett, et al. are memorable and oftentimes humorous.

The bad:  I’m going to sound like a prude here, and I really don’t care.  Too much foul language and too much gratuitous sex.  After 300 pages you think, “Man, this is meaningless and random and unnecessary.”  Also, there is no real plot.  What’s the point?  Also, nobody is terribly likeable in the story, least of all Will Cooper.

I don’t know, it was a good opportunity squandered.  Here’s hoping that Charles Frazier will do better next time around.

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