Sunday, November 23, 2014


Several years ago I read a book called Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  It was very good and subsequently became a motion picture which I never did see but heard was similarly well done.  I was looking for something to read a few weeks ago and spotted, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier in one of the bookcases.

There is a library near me that has, four times a year, a book sale which brings folks from all over.  It is held in a tiny basement, smaller than most basements in single family homes.  The sales take place on weekends. The joint is packed on Saturday. If you can hold off until Sunday, you not only can breathe in the basement, but the books already reduced to a dollar or two on Saturday, become half priced.  So for half a buck you can get a paperback novel that sells for sixteen dollars in your local bookstore.  The classics sell for a dime.  (And what are passing for classics these days are books that were novels when I was a teenager).

That is how I think I came to have Nightwoods on my shelf.  Can't remember for sure. But I see the reference to Cold Mountain on the cover, and the excerpts from raving reviewers on the cover as well.  "Impossible to Shake" Entertainment Weekly, "Fantastic" Washington Post. "Astute and Compassionate", The Boston Globe.


I don't buy it.  To me this novel was more like a short story that had been inflated.  I rarely stop reading a novel half way through, but I almost put this one down.  I'm glad I didn't because the last section was well done and perhaps that is what the reviewers refer to.  However, so much of the background was unnecessary, and the descriptions much too much so. It takes a very long time to get to the chase and not enough time spent on the residual effects.

I'm not recommending the book, but if you want to read it for yourself you can stop reading this review now as I will give some of it away.  A reclusive woman who had been emotionally abused by her worthless mother and her twisted father, takes in the two children of her sister.  The children are homeless because the sister has been murdered by the second husband and stepfather of the kids.  The stepfather is a nogoodnik down to his ankles who somehow gets away with the murder.  He believes his sister in law not only has the kids but money that the bad guy believes is his.  He comes to town looking for the sister to find the money.  In the meantime a contemporary and former townsperson of the guardian sister comes back home and falls in love with the sister.

There you have it.  I set the stage in a paragraph. It will take you 150 pages to get there if you read the book, and then another 100 to find out what happens.

I do think the novel would have been good as a short story and could have been such. The end does have some gripping moments and I found myself wanting to know what happened, but for me the book was not impossible to shake.

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