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The extraordinary author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons returns with a dazzling new novel of suspense and love set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s.
Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while losing none of the transcendent prose, virtuosic storytelling, and insight into human nature that have made him one of the most beloved and celebrated authors in the world. Now, with ...

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Nightwoods: A Novel

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The extraordinary author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons returns with a dazzling new novel of suspense and love set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s.
Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while losing none of the transcendent prose, virtuosic storytelling, and insight into human nature that have made him one of the most beloved and celebrated authors in the world. Now, with his brilliant portrait of Luce, a young woman who inherits her murdered sister’s troubled twins, Frazier has created his most memorable heroine.
Before the children, Luce was content with the reimbursements of the rich Appalachian landscape, choosing to live apart from the small community around her. But the coming of the children changes everything, cracking open her solitary life in difficult, hopeful, dangerous ways.
Charles Frazier is known for his historical literary odysseys, and for making figures in the past come vividly to life. Set in the twentieth century, Nightwoods resonates with the timelessness of a great work of art.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

With the murder of her sister Lily, Luce had inherited not only grief, but also Lily's young twins, who were struggling in their own ways with the loss. With her solitude broken by the arrival of the damaged, mute children, the young woman tries to restore three lives in a remote, abandoned North Carolina mountain lodge. As she struggles to find balance in the wilderness, two men are approaching. One is Lily's husband and murderer, a man obsessed with locating hidden money he is convinced is nearby. The other is the man who could bring solace to Luce and her troubled brood. Once again the author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons are created a fictional world that engulfs us with its warmth and authenticity.

Michiko Kakutani
…suspenseful…conjures the untamed land of southern Appalachia with a native's unsparing love and wary respect…In recounting the slow, sometimes apprehensive circling of these characters around one another, Mr. Frazier displays a keen psychological understanding of their fears and desires, and their driving impulse to keep themselves safe, at any cost.
—The New York Times
Ron Charles
…this is a fantastic book: an Appalachian Gothic with a low-level fever that runs alternately warm and chilling. Frazier has left the 19th century and the picaresque form to produce a cleverly knitted thriller about a tough young woman in the 1960s who has given up on the people of her small town and gone to live alone in the woods. Much of the terror and pleasure of Nightwoods comes from detecting the ligaments that connect these wounded folks, who don't always realize how they're connected until a knife is already in flight.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
National Book Award–recipient Frazier’s third novel (after Thirteen Moons) turns around Luce, a beautiful and lonely young woman who has retreated to a vast abandoned lodge in the mountains of Appalachia. Traumatized by negligent parents (“Mother a long-gone runaway. Father, a crazy-ass, violent lawman”), Luce now lives off the land in relative contentment—until her sister Lily is murdered, and Lily’s deeply damaged twins, Dolores and Frank, are sent to live with her. We are briefly allowed to hope for happily-ever-after when an old flame of Luce’s, a thoughtful and kind man by the name of Stubblefield, reenters her life, but he is not the only newcomer to town. Unbeknownst to Luce, her sister’s husband—and killer, Bud, on the prowl for money he believes Lily’s children stole from him, has arrived and will readily perform sudden, cold violence on anyone who stands in his way. Frazier’s characters lack nuance (they are either very, very good or very, very bad) and his prose is often self-consciously folksy. But his great strength, as well as presenting us with a fully realized physical backdrop, is the tenderness with which he renders the relationships at the core of this book, creating a compelling meditation on violence and the possibility that human love can heal even the deepest wound. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Nightwoods:

"Nightwoods is no typical thriller….its dazzling sentences are so meticulously constructed that you find yourself rereading them, trying to unpack their magic...the unhurried, poetic suspense is both difficult to bear and IMPOSSIBLE TO SHAKE."—Entertainment Weekly

FANTASTIC ... an Appalachian Gothic with a low-level fever that runs alternately warm and chilling.” —The Washington Post

No writer today crafts more exquisite sentences than Charles Frazier.” —USA Today

ASTUTE AND COMPASSIONATE  . . .a virtuoso construction . . . with wickedly wry dialogue reminiscent of the best of Charles Portis, Larry Brown, and Cormac McCarthy.” —The Boston Globe

HIS BEST BOOK TO DATE. Frazier’s exquisitely efficient style is matched by some finely tuned suspense.” —The Times (London)

Frazier has taken a fast-paced genre and subverted it at every turn, offering a closer look at the nature of good and evil and how those forces ebb and flow over time.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution

"...[A] taut narrative of love and suspense, told against a gritty background of bootlegging and violence. The characters are rich and unforgettable, and the prose almost lyrical. This is Charles Frazier at his best. ...Just mention a new novel by the Cold Mountain author, and a line will start forming."

"...[T]hink Thunder Road meets Night of the Hunter meets old murder ballads. This is a suspenseful noir nightmare, complete with bootleggers and switchblades."
The Daily Beast

The story makes the book more than worthwhile, and the writing is as good as anything Frazier has created so far. …[G]ripping story and engaging characters.” — Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
“[E]ngages your deep interest....  The book’s ending is masterful, gratifying suspense-seekers as well as readers who like things working on many levels.” — Asheville Citizen-Times
The characters are expertly molded from the very land they inhabit, calling attention to the shallowness of the grave in which our more violent past is buried.” — BookPage


Cold Mountain
“Natural-born storytellers come along only rarely. Charles Frazier joins the ranks of that elite cadre on the first page of his astonishing debut.”—Newsweek
“Prose filled with grace notes and trenchant asides . . . a Whitmanesque foray into America: into its hugeness, its freshness, its scope and its soul . . . such a memorable book.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A rare and extraordinary book . . . heart-stopping . . . spellbinding.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Thirteen Moons
“A boisterous, confident novel that draws from the epic tradition: It tips its hat to Don Quixote as well as Twain and Melville, and it boldly sets out to capture a broad swatch of America’s story in the mid-nineteenth century.”—The Boston Globe
“Frazier works on an epic scale, but his genius is in the details—he has a scholar’s command of the physical realities of early America and a novelist’s gift for bringing them to life.”—Time
“Magical . . . fascinating and moving . . . You will find much to admire and savor in Thirteen Moons.”—USA Today

Library Journal
Luce has chosen to live alone in the North Carolina mountains. When she becomes responsible for her murdered sister's troubled twins, she finds love, danger, and a life she could never have imagined. VERDICT Like The Cove, Frazier's (Cold Mountain; Thirteen Moons) novel delivers an evocative story with a strong sense of place, a heroine with a deep and abiding character, and a stimulating, complex plot.
Kirkus Reviews
A Southern gothic narrative that's strong on characters and backwoods atmosphere but undermined by literary affectation.

Though the third novel by Frazier(Thirteen Moons,2006, etc.) makes occasional reference toThunder Road,it could inspire a movie as gripping as another with Robert Mitchum,The Night of the Hunter,which also finds two small children fleeing from a dangerous man with a murky past.In this novel, set a half-century ago, the children are orphaned by the murder of their mother and are sent to live with her sister, once the beauty of a small Southern town, now squatting on the grounds of an abandoned lodge at the edge of the mountains. The man in pursuit of the children is Bud, their stepfather and likely their mother's murderer, though he was acquitted of the crime. He knows that the children saw somethingand might have something he wants, maybe a lot of money.But they don't talk. Or won't talk. Or can't talk. They're almost feral (and certainly pyromaniacs) as well as mute, discovers Luce, their aunt and now their caretaker, who "didn't even really like the children, much less love them. But she loved Lily [her murdered sister] and would raise the children and not be trash." While generally staying within the minds of the characters, the prose occasionally takes literary flight to jarring effect: "Lifeless as these woods are now, all the blood must flow in summertime, whereas Jesus's blood covers the world every day of the year." Or, in Luce's impressions of a sunset: "Expressed as art, the colors would lay on canvas entirely unnatural and sentimental, and yet they were a genuine manifestation of place many evenings in fall." Frazier's characters aren't as likely to think like that as the novelist is.When he tempers his tendency toward filigree and lets his bare-boned, hard-boiled plot progress, the novel packs a devastating punch.

Where his debut (Cold Mountain, 1997) won the literary lottery as an award-winning popular blockbuster, this suggests that Frazier is more than a one-hit wonder.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812978803
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 237,513
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Frazier

Charles Frazier grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. Cold Mountain, his highly acclaimed first novel, was an international bestseller and won the National Book Award in 1997. His second novel, Thirteen Moons, was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


Charles Frazier had been teaching University-level literature part-time when he first became spellbound by the story of his great-great uncle W. P. Inman. Inman was a confederate soldier during the Civil War who took a harrowing foot-journey from the ravaged battle fields back to his home in the mountains of North Carolina. The specifics of Inman's history were sketchy, indeed, but Frazier's father spun his tale with such enticing drama that Frazier began filling in the gaps, himself. Bits of the life of Frazier's grandfather, who also fought in the Civil War, helped flesh out the journey of William Pinkney Inman. He also looked toward the legendary epic poem The Odyssey for inspiration. Slowly, a gripping tale of devotion, faith, redemption, and love coalesced in Frazier's mind. For six or seven years, he toiled away on the story that would ultimately become Cold Mountain, and with the novel's publication in 1997, the first-time author had a modern classic of American literature on his hands.

In Cold Mountain, Inman is a wounded confederate soldier who abandons the war to venture home to his beloved Ada. Along the way, he is confronted by various obstacles, but he journeys on valiantly, regardless. Frazier cleverly divides the narrative between Inman's trek and Ada's story as she struggles to make due in the wake of her father's death and the absence of her love.

When Frazier was only half finished with the book, he passed it along to friend and novelist Kaye Gibbons (Ellen Foster; A Virtuous Woman), who then got it into the hands of her agent. Much to his disbelief, Frazier's novel went on to become the smash sensation of the late-‘90s. Winning countless laudatory reviews from publications throughout the nation, Cold Mountain also became a must-read commercial smash. The novel ultimately won the coveted National Book Award for fiction and was adapted into an Oscar-winning motion picture starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and best supporting actress Renee Zellweger.

Now, nearly ten years after the publication of Cold Mountain, Frazier is finally back with Thirteen Moons. While Thirteen Moons returns to a 19th century setting, 12-year old Will is quite a different protagonist from Inman. With only a horse, a key, and a map, the boy is prodded into Indian country with the mission of running a trading post. In this dangerous environment, Will learns to empathize with the Cherokees, who open his mind to a much broader world than he had ever seen before. With the same lyrical fluidity and sense of wonder that brought Cold Mountain to life, Frazier fashions Thirteen Moons in similarly epic fashion. Once again, the critics are coming out to applaud Frazier's work, Kirkus reviews declaring Thirteen Moons "a great gift to all of us, from one of our very best writers."

Although Will is not directly based on a distant relative, as Inman had been, the story is equally close to the author's heart. "Growing up, I lived in a green valley surrounded by tall blue mountains," Frazier explains in an essay he wrote for Random House, Inc. "Not much more than a century earlier, the valley had been filled with Cherokee people, living on farms and in villages all up and down the river... In part, Thirteen Moons is my attempt to understand how I came to live where I did, not as history or myth, but as narrative."

Good To Know

Frazier grew up not far from the mountain he immortalized in Cold Mountain in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Although the actual Cold Mountain exists, the town after which it is named in the novel is entirely fictional.

Reportedly, Frazier was offered a whopping $8 million advance for Thirteen Moons.

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    1. Hometown:
      Raleigh, North Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Asheville, North Carolina
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; M.A., Ph.D., Appalachian State University

Read an Excerpt


LUCE'S NEW STRANGER CHILDREN were small and beautiful and violent. She learned early that it wasn't smart to leave them unattended in the yard with the chickens. Later she'd find feathers, a scaled yellow foot with its toes clenched. Neither child displayed language at all, but the girl glared murderous expressions at her if she dared ask where the rest of the rooster went.

The children loved fire above all elements of creation. A heap of dry combustibles delighted them beyond reason. Luce began hiding the kitchen matches, except the few she kept in the hip pocket of her jeans for lighting the stove. Within two days, the children learned how to make their own fire from tinder and a green stick bowed with a shoelace. Tiny cavemen on Benzedrine couldn't have made fire faster. Then they set the back corner of the Lodge alight, and Luce had to run back and forth from the spring with sloshing tin buckets to put it out.

She switched them both equally with a thin willow twig until their legs were striped pink, and it became clear that they would draw whatever pain came to them down deep inside and refuse to cry. At which point Luce swore to herself she would never strike them again. She went to the kitchen and began making a guilty peach pie.

LUCE WAS NOT MUCH MATERNAL. The State put the children on her. If she had not agreed to take them, they would have been separated and adopted out like puppies. By the time they were grown, they wouldn't even remember each other.

Though now that it was probably too late to go back, maybe that would have been a good thing. Separate them and dilute whatever weirdness they shared and ignited between them. Yet more proof, as if you needed it, that the world would be a better place if every-damn-body didn't feel some deep need to reproduce. But God in his infinite wisdom had apparently thought it was an entertaining idea for us to always be wanting to get up in one another.

Also, the children were here, and what was Luce to do? You try your best to love the world despite obvious flaws in design and execution. And you take care of whatever needy things present themselves to you during your passage through it. Otherwise you're worthless.

Same way with the Lodge. Luce didn't own it. She was the caretaker, sort of. Some would call her a squatter now that the old man was dead. But nobody else seemed interested in keeping it from growing over with kudzu until it became nothing but a green mound.

Back at the edge of the previous century, the Lodge had been a cool summer retreat for rich people escaping the lowland steam of August. Some railroad millionaire passing through the highland valley in his own railcar had a vision, or possibly a whim, to build an earthen dam, back the river up, fill the upper end of the valley with water right to the edge of the village. Then, on the far side, build a log lodge of his own design, something along the lines of the Old Faithful Inn, though smaller and more exclusive. He must have been a better railroad executive than architect, because what he built was a raw outsized rectangle, a huge log cabin with a covered porch looking down a sweep of lawn to the lake and across the water to the town. Evidently, rich people were satisfied by simpler things in the yesteryears.

Now the millionaires and the railroad were gone. But the lake remained, a weird color-shifting horizontal plane set in an otherwise convoluted vertical landscape of blue and green mountains. The Lodge persisted as well, a strange, decaying place to live in alone, though. The main floor was taken up by the common rooms, a voluminous lobby with its massive stone fireplace and handsome, backbreaking Craftsman armchairs and settles, quarter-sawn oak tables and cabinets. A long dining room with triple-hung, lake-view windows and, behind swinging doors, a big kitchen with a small table where the help once crowded together to eat leftovers. Second floor, just narrow hallways and sleeping chambers behind numbered six-panel doors with transom windows. Third floor, way up under the eaves, a dark smothering rabbit warren of windowless servants' quarters.

WHEN SHE LIVED ALONE, Luce didn't go to the upper floors often, but not out of fear. Not really. It was little but bedsteads and cobwebs up there, and she didn't want to believe in ghosts or anything similar. Not even the portents of bad dreams. Yet the fading spirit world touched her imagination pretty strong when she was awake at three in the morning, alone in the big place. The dark sleeping floors, with their musty transient pens and cribs for the guests and their help, spooked her. The place spoke of time. How you're here and then you're gone, and all you leave for a little while afterward are a few artifacts that outlive you.

Case in point, old Stubblefield, who had owned the Lodge for the past few decades. Luce visited him several times during his dying days, and she was there at the end to watch the light go out of his eyes. In the final hours, Stubblefield mostly cataloged his possessions and listed who should get what. His concerns were largely real estate, all his holdings to go to his sole useless grandson. Also a few valuable objects, such as his dead wife's silver service and lace tablecloth, perfect but for a slight rust stain at one corner. Barely noticeable. The silver candleholders were a heavy weight on Stubblefield's mind because his wife had loved them so much. Oddly, he left them to Luce, who didn't love them at all and probably never would.

Easy to be disdainful and ironic toward others' false values. Still, Luce hoped that when she was at the same thin margin of life she would be concerned with looking out the window to note the weather or the shape of the moon or some lone bird flying by. Certainly not a bunch of worn-out teaspoons. But Luce was half a century younger than old Stubblefield, and didn't know how she'd think and what she would value if she made it that far down the road. All her life, the main lesson Luce had learned was that you couldn't count on anybody. So she guessed you could work hard to make yourself who you wanted to be and yet find that the passing years had transformed you beyond your own recognition. End up disappointed in yourself, despite your best efforts. And that's the downward way Luce's thoughts fell whenever she went upstairs into the dreary past.

BEFORE THE CHILDREN, Luce had learned that after dark she'd best keep to the communal lobby, with its fireplace and mildew-spotted furniture and tall full bookshelves and huge floor-standing radio with a tuning ring like the steering wheel to a Packard. She dragged a daybed from a screened sleeping porch to form a triangle of cozy space with the hearth and the radio to make herself a bedroom. The bookshelves held a great many well-read old novels and a set of Britannicas, complete but for a couple of volumes in the middle of the alphabet. Also, nearby, a Stickley library stand with an unabridged 1913 Webster's. The places where you naturally put your hands on the soft binding were stained dark, so that all you could figure was that decades of guests finished a greasy breakfast of sausage biscuits and then right away needed to look up a word.

At bedtime, lamps out, the rest of the big room faded into darkness, only the fire and the radio's tubes sending a friendly glow up the nearby log walls. Luce finally fell asleep every night listening to WLAC out of Nashville. Little Willie John, Howlin' Wolf, Maurice Williams, James Brown. Magic singers proclaiming hope and despair into the dark. Prayers pitched into the air from Nashville and caught by the radio way up here at the mountain lake to keep her company.

Also good company on clear nights, the lights of town. Yellow pinpoints and streaks reflecting on the shimmer of black lake water. One advantage of the village being over there on the other side was the proximity of people as the crow flies, but no other way. By car, it took the better part of an hour to go around the back side of the lake and across the dam and around the shore to town.

The distance seemed shorter when Luce first got to the Lodge, due to a rowboat she found in one of the outbuildings. Town became only twenty minutes away. But the boat was rotting and loose-jointed, and on her first few trips across, she spent as much time bailing with a saucepan as rowing. And she was not much of a swimmer, at least not good enough to make it to either shore from the middle. She dragged the boat up onto the shoreline and let it dry for a few days, and then one evening at dusk, she poured a cup of kerosene on it and burned it. Flames rose chest-high, their reflections reaching across the still water toward town.

After that, when she had been alone for too many days, she walked the half mile to Stubblefield's house, and the half mile farther to Maddie's, and the mile farther to the little country store, where you could buy anything you wanted as long as it was bologna and light bread and milk, yellow cheese and potted meat, and every brand of soft drink and candy bar and packaged snack cake known to man. A four- mile round-trip just to sit in a chair outside the store for a half hour and drink a Cheerwine and eat a MoonPie and observe other human beings. She always carried a book, though, in case she needed to read a few pages to avoid unwanted conversation.

The past Fourth of July, Luce sat on the porch of the Lodge drinking precious brown liquor from the basement and watching tiny fireworks across the water. Bursts that must have filled the sky in town became bubbles of sparks about as big as a fuzzy dandelion at arm's length. As they began fading to black, the distant boom and sizzle finally reached the Lodge. Friday nights in the fall, light from the football field glowed silver against the eastern sky. A faint sound like an outbreath when the home team scored a touchdown. Every Sunday morning, distant church bells from the Baptists and Methodists tinkled like ice cubes in a glass, and a saying of her mother's always crossed Luce's mind: thirst after righteousness. Which Lola used as a Sabbath toast, raising a tall Bloody Mary and a freshly lit Kool in the same hand only minutes after the bells woke her.

THE DAY THE CHILDREN came was high summer, the sky thick with humidity and the surface of the lake flat and iron blue. On the far side, mountains layered above the town, hazing upward in shades of olive until they became lost in the pale gray sky. Luce watched the girl and boy climb out of the backseat of a chalky-white Ford sedan and stand together, square to the world. Not really glaring, but with a manner of looking at you and yet not at you. Predatory, with their eyes very much in the fronts of their faces and scoping their surroundings for whatever next prospect might present itself, but not wanting to spook anybody. Not yet. Foxes entering henhouses, was the way Luce saw it.

They sported new clothes the State had given them. A blue cotton print dress and white socks and white PF Flyers for the girl. A white cotton shirt and stiff new blue jeans and black socks and black PF Flyers for the boy. Both children had hair the color of a peanut shell, standing ragged on their heads as if the same person had done the cuts in a hurry, with only the littlest regard to gender.

Luce said, Hey there, you two twins.

The children didn't say anything, nor even look at her or at each other.

-Hey, Luce said, a little louder. I'm talking to you.


Luce looked at their faces and saw slight concern for themselves or anybody else. They sent out expressions like they sure didn't want you to mess with them, but maybe they wanted to mess with you. She went to the back of the car, where the man from the State was unloading a couple of cardboard boxes from the trunk. He set them on the ground and touched the smaller box with the toe of his loafer.

-Their clothes, he said. And that other one is your sister's. Personal items.

Luce hardly glanced down from looking at the kids. She said, What's the matter with them?

-Nothing much, the man said. He thumbed the wheel to a Zippo and lit a smoke and seemed tired from the long drive. Ten hours.

-Something's the matter with them, Luce said.

-They've been through a bad patch.

-A what?

Luce stood and waited while the man took a drag or two, and then she broke in on his smoking and said, You're the one that collects a salary from the State to do this job, but you can't even talk straight. Bad patch.

The man said, One doctor thought they might be feebleminded. Another one said it's just that they saw what they saw, and they've been yanked out of their lives and put in the Methodist Home for the time it took to sort things out. The father's legal matters.

-He's not their father. They're orphans.

-It took time to figure that kind of thing out. We got used to certain wording.

-And Johnson? Luce said.

-The trial's coming up, and they'll convict him. Sit him in the big wood chair with the straps and drop the tablet in the bucket. It fizzes up, and pretty soon he chokes out. Immediate family gets an invitation.

-To watch?

-There's a thick glass porthole, tinged like a fishbowl full of dirty water. If there's a crowd, you have to take turns. It's the size of a dinner plate. Pretty much one at a time.

-Count me in, Luce said.

She watche

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Interviews & Essays

A letter from Charles Frazier about his new novel, NIGHTWOODS - September 27th, 2011

Lost in the woods. A dangerous phrase, but also with a resonance of folktale. Hansel and Gretel with their bread crumbs. Jack alone, roaming the lovely, dark, and deep southern mountains. So, young people and old people being lost in the woods has always been interesting to me for those reasons. And also because it happens all the time still.

Back when I was a kid, eight or ten, my friends and I lived with a mountain in our backyards. We stayed off it in summer. Too hot and snaky. But in the cool seasons, we roamed freely. We carried bb guns in the fall and rode our sleds down old logging roads in winter. We often got lost. But we knew that downhill was the way out, the way home. When I grew up and went into bigger mountains, you couldn't always be so sure. I remember being lost in Bolivia. Or let's say that I grew increasingly uncertain whether I was still on the trail or not. That's the point where you ought to sit down and drink some water and consult your maps and compass very carefully and calmly. I kept walking. At some point, it became a matter of rigging ropes to swing a heavy pack over a scary white watercourse. I ended up at a dropoff. Down far below, upper reaches of the Amazon basin stretched hazy green into the distance. Downhill did not at all seem like the way home.

You'll just have to trust me that this has something to do with my new novel, but to go into it much would risk spoilers. I'll just say that early on in the writing of Nightwoods, Luce and the children were meant to be fairly minor characters, but I kept finding myself coming back to them, wanting to know more about them until they became the heart of the story. Some of my wanting to focus on them was surely influenced by several cases of kids lost in the woods in areas where I'm typically jogging and mountain biking alone at least a hundred days a year. It's part of my writing process, though I hardly ever think about work while I'm in the woods. But I do I keep obsessive count of how many miles a day I go and how many words I write, lots of numbers on 3x5 notecards. All those days watching the micro changes of seasons can't help but become part of the texture of what I write, and those lost kids, too.


1. Luce's strategy for dealing with her troubled past is to withdraw from her community, her emotions, and in some sense from life itself. Does Luce find this an effective coping mechanism for dealing with trauma? How does it help her, and how does it hurt her? In our digital world, is it still possible for someone to withdraw in this way?
2. Luce feels obligated to care for her sister's children even though she admits she is not a maternal person and does not love the children. Discuss this choice. How is Luce's sense of obligation informed by her relationship with her own mother and father?
3. Think about Luce's connection to her elder friends. What is it about Luce that draws her toward Maddie, old Stubblefield, and her grade school teachers?
4. Think about the scene in which Luce tells Lit about the rape. Is he only being insensitive and rude, or is there a part of him that is actually trying to protect Luce from more pain and disruption, albeit in an insensitive way?
5. Luce and Stubblefield are alike in some ways, and in others they are very different. Why do you think they are attracted to each other? Discuss which character changes the most over the course of the novel.
6. Discuss the children, and their eccentric and violent behavior. Are they misunderstood? Mentally or emotionally disturbed? How do they function as a narrative engine? In today's environment, a caretaker of these children would probably look for some kind of diagnosis. Apart from abuse, think about what might drive the kids' behavior that may have been misunderstood in the early 1960s. What are the challenges of raising children without the medical or psychiatric support we take for granted today?
7. Bud and Lit manage to form an unlikely bond. What is Bud looking for in Lit? And what is Lit looking for in Bud? What draws the two men apart, and ultimately leads to Lit's death?
8. Blood is a prominent symbol in Nightwoods. How does the metaphor of blood affect your interpretation of the story, and how does it shape Bud's confused worldview?
9. The beautifully rendered Appalachian landscape plays a central role in Nightwoods. Is the landscape merely a setting for the story? Or is it something more? A symbol? A kind of character? And what do you think the giant pit in the woods represents?
10. In the end, Luce opens up to Stubblefield and accepts that he intends to be a permanent fixture in her life. The children also seem to have accepted him. What do you think of this unlikely, cobbled-together family? What does it say about what makes a family? Will they be successful in making each other whole again?
11. What do you think happened to Bud? Does he continue to represent a threat to Luce, Stubblefield, and the kids?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a fast-paced character driven suspense thriller

    Luce is a lonely woman who does not own the once luxurious but now abandoned North Carolina rustic Lodge where she has lived for three years by herself as its caretaker. With the death of elderly owner Stubblefield, she is not sure whether her late employer's worthless grandson will allow her to stay on at the Lodge.

    Luce has other problems with the recent murder of her sister Lily. She has no time for grief as the State has taken Lily's fraternal twin children to her since their stepdad stands trial for killing their mom. Luce has no idea how to deal with her grief stricken niece (Dolores) and nephew (Frank) especially since both are mute and out of control. Still she finds some solace in helping them adjust from arsonist wild animals to human kids. However, she is unaware that her brother-in-law Bud, acquitted of murdering his wife, is coming seeking hidden money he plans to find at any cost to others even his stepchildren. Nor does she know someone else is coming up the mountain with plans for the Lodge.

    Nightwoods is a fast-paced character driven suspense thriller. The story line is superb when the focus is inside the minds of the three grievers at the Lodge. The plot loses some momentum of the anticipated confrontation when the protagonists speak like English Lit professors seeking a metaphor. Still this is a terrific tale as three lonely people struggle with the murder of the connecting loved one while the killer is coming.

    Harriet Klausner

    22 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    Beautifully Written, Superb Storytelling

    I don't understand some of the criticisms i've read of Frazier's prose. His writing style paints vivid images of the characters, town and surrounding North Carolina mountains and accents the tight and precise narrative perfectly. Coming in under 250 pages, the descriptiveness doesn't add unnecessarily to the length of the book. The slow-burn creep factor within the tale envisions something along the lines of a Cohen brothers film. I recommend this book.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Eloquent Prose

    Nightwoods main character, Luce, is the caretaker of an abandoned, decaying summer lodge on a lake in Appalachia. Frazier aptly describes a lodge in disrepair- a metaphor for the losses in Luce's life. But she is happy and at peace. Unconfined, her solitary life takes on an ethereal quality. Until the children. She took her murdered sister's children because the state said they would be separated if she didn't. The pyromaniac twins with a propensity for violence remind her in no way of her sweet departed sister. The "bad patch" they had been through was so devastating that they retreat into dark, secret places inside. One wonders how Luce musters the money and resourcefulness to care for the children after the shocking events of her own life. Luce is the driving force in the novel. She values her freedom and solitude. She has both mysticism and quiet strength about her. "What I want most is the ability to whistle the song of every bird in the area." Charles Frazier, author of Pulitzer Prize winner Cold Mountain, is a skilled wordsmith. The book is rich in description and the author casts a spell over us with Luce's character. Frasier's omission of the use of quotation marks is a mystery to this reviewer. Although we follow a circuitous route to figure out the story lines, the plodding plot comes together in the end. Nightwoods is aptly titled. The book is dark. Despite the violence wreaked upon humans, the peaceful and mysterious woods, home to soothing cricket sounds, hover over the book as a main character. Random House through Library Thing graciously supplied the review copy for my unbiased opinion. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    great read

    I was excited to read this book and was not disappointed. loved every minute reading it.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012


    Charles Frasier has become my favorite author and his latest does not disappoint. His previous novels, Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons, were set in the 19th century south. This one is set in the mid-20th century, but readers will recognize the author's familiar and vivid descriptions of the southern landscape that are inherent in his latest. Once I picked it up I could not put it down...I highly recommend it.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2011

    I loved it

    Charles Frazier writes beautifully about nature and people of nature. This was a wonderful story and the characters were well developed. I would love a sequel.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    A beautiful dark story

    Gripping tale with superbly drawn characters, lyrical but simple writing, and a true sense of place.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2012

    Loved this!

    I really enjoyed this book and it is beautifully written.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2012

    Wonderful prose and a touching tale

    In Charles Frazier's Nightwoods, powerful human emotions are covered with beautiful prose and deep insight. Set in mid-twentieth century Appalachia, the story centers around a woman who has done her best to separate herself from the rest of society. When her sister is murdered and the two orphaned children are sent to live with her, she accepts them into her home with a sense of duty to her sister. The children change her whole world and she does her best to help them along their path. Human relationships past and present help in the telling of this suspenseful and touching tale.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2011


    I love Charles Frasier's work, found this one very engaging. Riveting story, great characters.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Why why

    Why write all that and ruin it for every one y not say great book and maybbe say how many pages

    3 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012


    I havent gotten this involved in a book for a long long time. Highly recommended!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer


    The first 2/3 of the book was a little slow, but the description of the environment was very good. It picks up - I am happy with how it ended.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012


    Charles Frazier is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved this novel as much as I enjoyed Cold Mountain. Set in Appalahia during the early 1960s, Frazier uses vivid descriptions and various narrations to tell a mysterious story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2011

    Not that great

    This book was disappointing to me. While the plot was good and there was potential, I did not care for the way Frazier wrote it. He goes on and on with descriptions throughout the book, and most of the time I found myself getting impatient and wishing he would just get on with the story already! Most of the time he would go off on a tangent and it was tedious, almost painful, to read. And the way he developed the characters, it was like I was reading about them through a fog; I never quite really "knew" them. I ended up forcing myself to finish this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great writing about two children raised by their murdered mothers sister

    Another winner of a story by Charles Frazier that is completely different from his first book, Cold Mountain. This excellent story about two children that were very strange and were eventually turned over to Luce by the state to raise in the best way she could although Luce had no experience in raising children. The children, Dolores and Frank, were not normal young kids, not wishing to communicate with others verbally but if there was a way to get into trouble they were very able to "communicate" by doing that. Their mother had been murdered and there was no one else to raise them and keep them together. Luce was up for the challenge even though she had much to learn about almost everything, actions and education of children among those needs. She didn't own the lodge that she and the children moved in to. It was in general disrepair after past years of being a fancy lodging place for tourists. But now the three of them used mostly the first floor very seldom going upstairs to investigate what was up there. Luce had to be careful that the kids didn't go up there and get into trouble such as starting a fire, which they loved to do with most anything. Maddie lived nearby and they would sometimes walk to her house and visit, not knowing what Maddie would be doing or in what mood she might be on any visit. Bud was a bad man with a criminal record and a wicked history of prison and hurting or killing people and stealing most anything. Bud eventually married Luce's sister, Lily, which was a bad match for both of them and the children, who were fathered by another man. Bud could not stay out of trouble in the marriage and in the area. He loved to beat the kids. Luce was happy when Bud was away from the area either traveling or in prison. Bud cleaned out Luce's bank account and drove off robbing every person and business he came across. Luce did all she could to start the kid's education, teaching them everything she knew in her limited life. They would learn when they wanted to. Stubblefield was a local man who had inherited a decent size area of land and some buildings but he owed so much that he would have to rid himself of some of the inheritance. Lit was the local law. He gave Stubblefield instructions how to get to his land and what was on much of it. As he traveled he found Luce and the children in a home that was part of his inheritance. The distance between them finally became closer and they realized that they had known each other in school some years ago. Stubblefield found himself coming around to see them quite often until finally he would take walks with them and take them for a ride. Nothing serious between them occurred. Lit was buying "uppers" from Bud to keep himself awake and steady since he was getting older and felt he needed that stimulation. Meanwhile, without Luce realizing it, she and Stubblefield were getting chummy without the intimacy, even though he wished it would get to that point. I am not going to go any farther into the book, as I don't want to spoil the entire great story left in the book. You will enjoy the authors descriptive wording of the area, the characters, the events, nature, all of which combined with the story keep the reader very involved.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    Loved it!

    Beautiful story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 18, 2011


    I had high hopes for this book, but it didn't deliver at all. It was slow throughout and I kept hoping for it to pick up and get more interesting. But that was not to be and I had to force myself to finish it. I didn't find the characters interesting, either. About the only thing I enjoyed was the description of the mountains and countryside. Overall, it was a big disappointment and far from captivating.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A few life lessons are gleaned from a cast of well-drawn characters

    Sometimes you learn so much from the characters in a book, even the bad ones. In Nightwoods, the latest from Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier, the people that inhabit the pages crackle with life. As a master craftsman, Frazier gives just enough background information on each one fleshing them out and making them real. The novel revolves not so much around plot as in personality studies, observations on life and rhapsodic images of nature. With phrases like "dread filled the car like floodwater rising," Frazier's high level of perception sets his writing apart making him one of the finest American novelists working today.

    He transports the reader to an isolated, deteriorating lodge in the mountains of North Carolina circa the early 1960s. We find Luce, a young woman turned virtual hermit, as the caretaker of the abandoned building. Into her lap are dropped two children, her niece Delores and nephew, Frank, the twins of her late sister who was murdered by her husband, Bud. The children were abused by Bud and witnessed him killing their mother. Since these horrific events, they've become wild - slaughtering chickens with their bare hands - yet refusing to speak. Little do they know that Bud has followed them, waiting for the opportunity to silence them forever.

    While stressing respect for the past and the land, the novel delves into the dual themes of fire and blood. The children are obsessively drawn to the lure of an open flame. They become pyromaniacs setting fire to whatever lies in their path, even burning down a house. They seek solace in these desperate acts. As stated in the book, "You can't control everything that happens. All you control is your mind. Make it like the lake on a still day. Don't react any more than you can help, not to outsiders. Trust only the two of you all the way. Hoard up your love for each other and state your rage by way of things that want to burn."

    Their predator, Bud, on the other hand, sees things in terms of blood. He repeatedly cuts himself with his shark tooth necklace drawing the red liquid to the surface. He attacks Luce's boyfriend, Stubblefield, with a knife in a barroom bathroom brawl leaving the floor saturated. His view on life revolves around violence. His thoughts include, "Blood mattered above all else, the sacred shedding of it. The rest of Christ's life - his actions, his pithy sayings, his love - became incidental compared to the dark artery offering that covered the globe."

    Yet, he has a keen insight on life. In a telling passage, he states, "Pleasers never get paid back a fraction commensurate with their effort. Which goes along with one of the main rules in life. Which, unfortunately, has two parts. The a is, You got to get paid. A fine idea if it stopped right there. But the cruel b part is, You got to pay."

    Frazier leaves the conclusion of the novel open-ended. He doesn't settle things one way or the other. The ultimate fate is yet to be decided. Has the danger passed? Has it moved on? Will it be back? All that's certain is that Luce and Stubblefield will keep on doing the best they can for the children as they continue to form their own type of family unit. The only thing that's for sure is, in Frazier's words, "the landscape, which does not punish or reward but cleanses all bones equally."

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A Picturesque, a Romance, and Thriller in That Order

    NIGHTWOODS is always picturesque; or, perhaps, better characterized as cinematic. It's as if Frazier holds the camera he's been shooting with and invites us to peer into the viewer for scenes of North Carolina mountain country, scenes in the valleys, along the lakes, and up and down the mountains in the late days of summer and fall, and back in time, the way it was as the 50s decade closed. In these mountains and valleys live people. These people, the story's principals, have problems. Luce is wounded and living nearly as a hermit on the grounds of an old lodge, by herself and comfortable being so. Until the State of North Carolina deposits her murdered sister's twin children, Frank and Dolores, on her doorstep as her new charges. Following behind them comes her brother-in-law, Bud, acquitted of the stabbing death of Lilly by the graces of "a smart and ruthless old white-haired bastard" lawyer and a newly minted, dimwitted prosecutor. He believes the children possess loot he stole, loot in turn stolen from him by Lilly, loot he knifed her for in a fit of rage. Also, they witnessed the murder, and maybe he's done other things to them, and he fears that if they recover their powers of speech -- the children, as a result of the trauma, display autistic symptoms -- they will rat him out as a murderer and something worse. He takes over the local bootlegging business in the dry county and, unknown to him until later, befriends a runty, surly, alcoholic and pill-popping deputy who is the estranged father of Lilly and Luce. Later on, young Stubblefield, as opposed to old Stubblefield, proprietor of the lodge who has passed on as the novel opens, raises himself from his desolate life on the Gulf coast, returning home to claim his diminished inheritance, which he plans to dispose of, until he visits and sees Luce, who we through his eyes see in a new light. It's here that the story adds romance to picturesque and thriller. The summary gives the impression NIGHTWOODS is similar to a Jim Thompson tale; that is, gritty, raw, delicious literary pulp of the 50s. On the contrary, if a Thompson tale resembles the primordial Rocky Mountains, this Frazier tale reflects the smooth contours of the Great Smokey range. It's only after you've slowly trekked into the forest and gained altitude that you see how dangerous they can be. With regard to the novel, the trek is worth it. Some of what makes NIGHTWOODS rewarding are the ways in which Luce and Stubblefield grow into each other; how they fill each other's needs; how each casts off their pasts and emerge in the end as new people, lovers with challenging children. Then there is how Frazier immerses us in the place and time of the story, with lush descriptions of the locale and skillful references to artifacts of the times -- music, cars, food, and the like. Finally, without giving away the ending, there is a certain ambiguity at the conclusion that overlays the final moments of the family finally resting in the lodge, uneasily, the ambiguity allowing us to feel deeply their anxiety. If you like your thrillers rawer, then try Jim Thompson's THE KILLER INSIDE ME, Davis Grubb's THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, or David Valentino's I, KILLER.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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