Thirteen Moons

Thirteen Moons

by Charles Frazier


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At the age of twelve, an orphan named Will Cooper is given a horse, a key, and a map and is sent on a journey through the uncharted wilderness of the Cherokee Nation. Will is a bound boy, obliged to run a remote Indian trading post. As he fulfills his lonesome duty, Will finds a father in Bear, a Cherokee chief, and is adopted by him and his people, developing relationships that ultimately forge Will’s character. All the while, his love of Claire, the enigmatic and captivating charge of volatile and powerful Featherstone, will forever rule Will’s heart. In a voice filled with both humor and yearning, Will tells of a lifelong search for home, the hunger for fortune and adventure, the rebuilding of a trampled culture, and above all an enduring pursuit of passion.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, Chicago Tribune,
and St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A literary journey of magnitude . . . Thirteen Moons belongs to the ages.”
–Los Angeles Times

“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.”

“A powerhouse second act . . . a brilliant success.”
–The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Compulsively readable . . . a fitting successor to Cold Mountain.”
–St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Magical . . . fascinating and moving . . . You will find much to admire and savor in Thirteen Moons.”
–USA Today


“Mesmerizing . . . a bountiful literary panorama . . . The history that Frazier hauntingly unwinds through Will is as melodic as it is melancholy, but the sublime love story is the narrative’s true heart.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brimming with vivid, adventurous incident.”
–Raleigh News & Observer

“Reading a Frazier novel is like listening to a fine symphony. . . . Take the time to savor Frazier’s work, to take in each thought, to relish the turn of phrase or the imagery of a craftsman.”
–The Denver Post

“[Four stars] . . . Commanding . . . Frazier’s faithful will not be disappointed.”

“Superbly entertaining.”
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Fascinating . . . vivid and alive.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812967586
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/05/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 60,094
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

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.


Raleigh, North Carolina

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Asheville, North Carolina


B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; M.A., Ph.D., Appalachian State University

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

bone moon


There is no scatheless rapture. love and time put me in this condition. I am leaving soon for the Nightland, where all the ghosts of men and animals yearn to travel. We’re called to it. I feel it pulling at me, same as everyone else. It is the last unmapped country, and a dark way getting there. A sorrowful path. And maybe not exactly Paradise at the end. The belief I’ ve acquired over a generous and nevertheless inadequate time on earth is that we arrive in the afterlife as broken as when we departed from the world. But, on the other hand, I’ve always enjoyed a journey.

Cloudy days, I sit by the fire and talk nothing but Cherokee. Or else I sit silent with pen and paper, rendering the language into Sequoyah’s syllabary, the characters forming under my hand like hen- scratch hieroglyphs. On sunny days, I usually rock on the porch wrapped in a blanket and read and admire the vista. Many decades ago, when I built my farm out of raw land, I oriented the front of the house to aim west toward the highest range of mountains. It is a grand long view. The river and valley, and then the coves and blue ridges heaved up and ragged to the limits of eyesight.

Bear and I once owned all the landscape visible from my porch and a great deal more. People claimed that in Old Europe our holdings would have been enough land to make a minor country. Now I have just the one little cove opening onto the river. The hideous new railroad, of which I own quite a few shares, runs through my front yard. The black trains come smoking along twice a day, and in the summer when the house windows are open, the help wipes the soot off the horizontal faces of furniture at least three times a week. On the other side of the river is a road that has been there as some form of passway since the time of elk and buffalo, both long since extinguished. Now, mules drawing wagons flare sideways in the traces when automobiles pass. I saw a pretty one go by the other day. Yellow as a canary and trimmed with polished brass. It had a windshield like an oversized monocle, and it went ripping by at a speed that must have been close to a mile a minute. The end of the driver’s red scarf flagged straight out behind him, three feet long. I hated the racket and the dust that hung in the air long after the automobile was gone. But if I was twenty, I’d probably be trying to find out where you buy one of those fast bastards.

the night has become electrified. Midevening, May comes to my room. The turn of doorknob, click of bolt in hasp. The opening door casts a wedge of yellow hall light against the wall. Her slender dark hand twists the switch and closes the door. Not a word spoken. The brutal light is message enough. A clear glass bulb hangs in the center of the room from a cord of brown woven cloth. New wires run down the wall in an ugly metal conduit. The bare bulb’s little blazing filament burns an angry cloverleaf shape onto my eyeballs that will last until dawn. It’s either get up and shut off the electricity and light a candle to read by, or else be blinded.

I get up and turn off the light.

May is foolish enough to trust me with matches. I set fire to two tapers and prop a polished tin pie plate to reflect yellow light. The same way I lit book pages and notebook pages at a thousand campfires in the last century.

I’m reading The Knight of the Cart, a story I’ve known since youth. Lancelot is waiting where I left him the last time. Still every bit as anguished and torn about whether to protect his precious honor or to climb onto the shameful cart with the malefic dwarf driver, and perhaps by doing so to save Guinevere, perhaps have Guinevere for his own true love. Choosing incorrectly means losing all. I turn the pages and read on, hoping Lancelot will choose better if given one more chance. I want him to claim love over everything, but so far he has failed. How many more chances will I be able to give him?

The gist of the story is that even when all else is lost and gone forever, there is yearning. One of the few welcome lessons age teaches is that only desire trumps time.

A bedtime drink would be helpful. At some point in life, everybody needs medication to get by. A little something to ease the pain, smooth the path forward. But my doctor prohibits liquor, and so my own home has become as strict as if it were run by hard-shell Baptists. Memory is about the only intoxicant left.

I read on into the night until the house falls quiet. Lancelot is hopeless. I am dream-stricken to think he will ever choose better.

At some point, I put the book down and hold my right palm to the light. The silver scar running diagonal across all the deep lines seems to itch, but scratching does not help.

Late in the night, the door opens again. Scalding metallic light pours in from the hallway. May enters and walks to my bed. Her skin is the color of tanned deerhide, a mixture of several bloods—white and red and black—complex enough to confound those legislators who insist on naming every shade down to the thirty-second fraction. Whatever the precise formula is for May, it worked out beautifully. She’ s too pretty to be real.

I knew her grandfather back in slavery days. Knew him and also owned him, if I’m to tell the truth. I still wonder why he didn’t cut my throat some night while I was asleep. I’d have had it coming. All us big men would have. But through some unaccountable generosity, May is as kind and protective as her grandfather was.

May takes the book as from a sleepy child, flaps it face down on the nightstand, blows out the candle with a moist breath, full lips pursed and shaped like a bow. I hear a hint of rattle in the lungs as the breath expires. I worry for her, though my doctor says she is fine. Consumption, though, is a long way to die. I’ve seen it happen more than once. May steps back to the door and is a black spirit shape against the light, like a messenger in a significant dream.

—Sleep, Colonel. You’ ve read late.

Funny thing is, I actually try. I lie flat on my back in the dark with my arms on my chest. But I can’t sleep. It is a bitter-cold night and the fire has burnt down to hissing coals. I don’t ever sleep well anymore. I lie in bed in the dark and let the past sweep over me like stinging sheets of windblown rain. My future is behind me. I let gravity take me into the bed and before long I’m barely breathing. Practicing for the Nightland.

survive long enough and you get to a far point in life where nothing else of particular interest is going to happen. After that, if you don’t watch out, you can spend all your time tallying your losses and gains in endless narrative. All you love has fled or been taken away. Everything fallen from you except the possibility of jolting and unforewarned memory springing out of the dark, rushing over you with the velocity of heartbreak. May walking down the hall humming an old song—“The Girl I Left Behind Me”—or the mere fragrance of clove in spiced tea can set you weeping and howling when all you’ve been for weeks on end is numb.

At least that last one is explainable. Back in green youth, Claire became an advocate for flavored kisses. She would break off new spring growth at the end of a birch twig, peel the dark bark to the wet green pulp, and fray the fibers with her thumbnail—then put the twig in her mouth and hold it there like a cheroot. After a minute she’d toss it away and say, Now kiss me. And her mouth had the sweet sharp taste of birch. In summer, she did the same with the clear drop of liquid at the tip of honeysuckle blossoms, and in the fall with the white pulp of honey-locust pods. And in winter with a dried clove and a broken stick of cinnamon. Now kiss me.

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Thirteen Moons 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could feel the story like I was there to see, taste, and breathe in the smells from campfire to death, feel the pain from the history the Native Americans indured from their removal from their homelands. This novel had life and death, love and hate, and survival brusting forth. Looking for a great this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cold Mountain is still one of my very favorite books, after 10 years and many many books read. It remains the only book ive read where apon comming to its end I threw the book across the room and openly and auditably cussed the author. It riped my heart to shreds. I even thought about writing the author to complain about what seemed to be his total disregard for the emotions and heartache of one of his readers. I then went outside and contemplated the book in full. I came to the conclusion that raw and powerful emotions created by his wonderful piece of fiction instead proved to me how beautyful a book this really was.... Anyway, I went into reading Thirteen Moons with a mind determined not to compare this new book with Cold Mtn. And I was not let down one bit. This was another book that will go on my top shelf - books that are the most cherished - with haste. I loved it. Wonderful Characters and some of the most beautyful language Ive come across in modern lit. Read the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I knew what was historical fact and what was fiction. I also thought it flowed poorly in some areas. Despite that, once I was "into" the story, I enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thirteen Moons is, to echo a previous reviewer, not a carbon copy of Frazier's first novel. The biggest difference to me was this: When I read CM, I literally could not put it down. I read until I slept from fatigue. With TM, I enjoyed it, but it didn't keep me from sticking to my normal schedule. Some have said here that CM took a few pages to warm up to the story, and I couldn't disagree more. From the time Inman walks out of the hospital, I was hooked on the mystery of where he was going and how he would get there. With TM, however, it took me a few chapters to gain any interest, and were this not a book by the masterful Charles Frazier, I probably would have given it up. There is no literal path for the protagonist of TM to walk, nor destination for him to reach. That actual journey is taken by the Cherokee, and of that story in this book we read none. Will Cooper's destination, while he does spend his life traveling the country, is not one to be reached by on foot or horseback, his journey is the story of how he started out an orphan and became a chief. This book, to me, is like reading the Biblical book of Eccleciastes, in which the author comes to the end of his spectacular life and realizes it has been for naught, he has gained nothing. Will's resignation to abandonment and hopelessness feels identical.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed every word of this beautifully descriptive novel. I didn't want it to end. I could feel the dampness of the mountains, hear the birds, smell the woods.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm one of the biggest Cold Mountain fans that I know of. I even visited Asheville, N.C. and the Cold Mountain vicinity. I waited for years for this novel and was expecting greatness only to be completely let down. The imagery is still stunning, but the characters and story line left me cold. How did Will develop such an inflated image of himself? I could never really understand what he did to deserve his fabulous titles and honors. I can suspend belief for the sake of a story as much as anyone, but his life never once touched an emotional chord because of the unbelievability and lack of real character development. The historical aspect of the relocation of the local Native Americans and the so called reconstruction era was tragic and very enlightening. Wouldn't recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First, as always, the disclaimer. I am a regional author (Suomalaiset: People of the Marsh ISBN 0972005064) and, like all authors, prone to fighting fits of envy. So, take what I am about to write with a grain of salt. I loved 'Cold Mountain'. Loved the premise,the historical truth, the characters, the setting, and the writing. I looked forward to the much hyped second effort by Mr. Frazier. The good news is that his writing is still exemplary. By that, I mean the man certainly knows how to turn a phrase. But that's about all I can say, in terms of positives, about this effort. The plot seems overblown and quite frankly, totally preposterous. The main character, Will, is thrown into wars, and disasters, and inclement weather, and every other kind of malady, only to survive, essentially unchanged and unscathed, while all those around him fall or fail. His ability to amass a fortune and hundreds of thousands of acres of land seems, given his humble beginnings, to strain even my vivid imagination. The descriptions of the landscape are lovely but lost in a plot that has no point. The first quarter of the book, the beginnings of a love affair between Will and Claire, the love of Will's life, has promise. Then, for the greater part of half of the novel, we are immersed endlessly in tedium surrounding Will and his adopted Indian tribe, the only point of which seems is to convince us that Will's greed isn't selfish, but done for the good his Red Brothers and Sisters. Far too late, and in a strained and surrealistic manner, the story comes back to Will and Claire. But by then, my patience was worn thin and the return to the real story, the interpersonal struggle between the lovers, had lost its appeal. Two stars might be a little light but that's how I see it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Frazier does a wonderful job of digging into the interior of a white man who was rasied Cherokee. He becomes an Everyman to us in his quest for wisdom, love, land and honor. The best section is on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Another moving account of the Trail of Tears is WALKING THE TRAIL by Jerry Ellis, the first person in modern history to walk the 900 mile route of the Trail. That book was nominated for a Pulitzer and National Book Award and is required reading in some US high schools and colleges.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lynsbro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellernt,a wonderful portrait of a nation in the making,and the sad tale of the Native Americans' sacrifice to progress(!?) and greed
wickedlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really loved the book Cold Mountain by this author, and I couldn't wait to read this, his most recent book. I love the way Frazier tells this tale; a comfortable, slow, but beautifully painted story of one man's epic lifetime. Shuffled off as a boy to make his own life, the Native Americans who adopted him, his horse, and the woman he was to love so intensely all of his life only to lose her. Her memory haunts him still, as an old man shuffling around his house, hearing her voice on the newly-installed telephone. And I should have known going into it that, being a Frazier book, it wasn't going to end on exactly a high note. But like Cold Mountain, it did at least end with some amount of hope, and satisfaction.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can already tell this is going to be one of my top five books for all of 2008. If it's not, I can't imagine the wonders awaiting me. Charles Frazier is not only a wonderful storyteller, but his ability to cause me to pause and read passages over and over again, just for the music of the words, and the powerful emotions they evoke in me is extraordinary. I savored this book, and I might well read it again this year, just to experience its delights for another few hours.Set in the mid-nineteenth century, it tells the story of Will Cooper, an orphaned boy, and the Cherokee Nation that takes him in as one of its own. It is a story of heartbreak and triumph, as I suppose all good novels are. But I found it to be a most personal story, too. Meaningful to me in ways that still aren't clear to me. An amazing book, and one that could easily find its way onto my Top Ten of All Time favorites.
wisewoman32 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good look at pre-war North Carolina. Very brief treatment of the CW. Ended on a dark note.
coyle220 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the first half of this novel very much, learning about Cherokee Indian culture and relationships with white men on the territory borders. Wonderful descriptions of the land and wilderness survival. The voice of Will Cooper, who tells his interesting story from age 12 to age 80 , is strong... until he gets carried away with reminscinces about his love Claire. I feel the love story began to overwhelm the adventure story.
tcrutch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not the type of book I normally select - I consider it a "guy book". However, I was plesantly suprised with the plot. I live near the location where the book takes place and I have to say, Frazier paints a fairly accurate picture of what Western North Carolina was like at the time.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt that Cold Mountain was an outstanding work of fiction. I was somewhat surprised in that I don't normally care for award winning literary works. Cold Mountain, however, was so beautifully written and captivating that I would rate it as one of my favorite books. For that reason, I was looking forward to seeing what Charles Frazier would do for an encore. It is easy to be disappointed when a successor doesn't measure up to the original, but in this case, how could it? Viewed on its own, Thirteen Moons is a very good work and displays much of the same outstanding writing found in Cold Mountain. The setting was quite original as well and in my opinion enhanced the work. The premise involves a very elderly narrator looking back upon his time among the Cherokee Indians of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains in the early 19th century. As a young man, he was sold as an indentured servant to a businessman who placed him in charge of a frontier trading post. It was here that he fell in with and was essentially adopted by the adjacent Native Americans. Thirteen Moons is his recollection of his time among the natives and his efforts to acquire and hold onto the ancestral property of his adopted tribe, efforts which involved training as a lawyer and acting as a lobbyist among D.C. lawmakers and policy setters in the time leading up to and encompassing the Trail of Tears. As in Cold Mountain, Frazier's writing is haunting and filled with imagery of the surrounding countryside. It can certainly be said that at times the action drags, but I can never say that I became bored or anxious for something to happen. I was at all times captivated by the prose and the underlying story line. The thread involving the love of his life, Claire, was simply outstanding as it wove its way in and out of the novel. The love/hate relationship with Featherstone was magnificently presented as were the father/son moments between Will and Bear. All in all, a very worthy successor to Cold Mountain. I eagerly await Frazier's next effort.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Covers the life of Will Cooper who was apprenticed out by his aunt and uncle to run a trading post in Indian territory. He was eventually adopted by the chief of the local tribe, Bear and lived his life as an Indian and spokesman for the Cherokee. He assisted his tribe by helping them understand American laws and government and politics and was able to keep them on their land while other tribes were removed to Oklahoma.
fersher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this lonely tale of a boy who becomes a man through various trials and tribulations, all the while remaining cool, calm and collected. A very melancholy story. Excellent!
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Will Cooper narrates his own story in retrospect, beginning with his days as an orphaned, literate "bound boy" and ending nearly nine decades later. This was an interesting story but pretty unoriginal and too long.
melissavenable on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read "Cold Mountain" a couple of times and was anxious to read another book by Frazier. This story of Will Cooper and his adventures in finding his own way in the world is set in the mountains of North Carolina, pre-Civil War. This book is full of details about this region of the country, Native American culture and life at that time and life at a trading post.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To me this book seemed like a grown-up version of Huck Finn. The story is told right from the first person and the setting is a bit far back (the narrator is born about 3 or 4 decades pre-civil war). It's a love story, it's a story of a yearning for power, for the preservation of tradition and all-in-all, a highly recommended read.
anterastilis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thirteen Moons is Charles Frazier's sophomore novel, the first being the highly acclaimed Cold Mountain (which I never read, or saw the movie). After reading a recent few disappointing sophomore novels, I was a bit nervous to start in on this one.I had no reason to be nervous. I loved it. Frazier's writing style is just beautiful: evocative, simple without oversimplifying, and concise. Nothing felt unnecessary or uneven.This is the story of Will Cooper, who was sent (at the age of twelve) to the edge of the Cherokee nation to run a trading post. He starts out with just his horse and a key to the store, and builds a life from there. The people in his life are beautifully drawn: Bear, his Cherokee surrogate father; Claire, who he wins in a card game when they are both 12 years old; Featherstone, owner of a nearby plantation. Will's story is told from his late-in-life perspective, with the pragmatic feeling of a man who lived through history and doesn't sugarcoat it or romanticize anything. The stark tale against the lush background of the mountains and the characterization - dang, it was just about perfect.I hope that he writes more novels along these lines. I'll probably pick up Cold Mountain at some point and read that, as well.
NanceJ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was okay, but I remember being really disappointed at the end.
BriarRose72 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Frazier's Thirteen Moons is, ultimately, the story of a man in all his human frailty. Will Cooper narrates his exploits retrospectively, as an old man, which lends wit and candor to his story, as well as a very particular insight into what it is to be human. This, coupled with Frazier's lovely descriptive imagery (I could drink his words) and a quality of haunting poignance renders Thirteen Moons a brilliant read.
wispywillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This audiobook kept me fine company during my last week or so of commuting to school. The narrator is a man I'd never heard of before--and I can't imagine him doing well with anything that wasn't Western, but he did well with this. Actually, the character he played was from the South--Tennessee--but the reader has more of a Western drawl, I think. No matter. The drawl worked well, as did the age in the voice. Reminded me a lot of my friend Colt.The story is set long ago, and it just has this... feel to it that I can't explain... an atmosphere. America has just barely begun to form. Native Americans still live on their lands, though by this time most of them have adapted to the influx of white people. The Trail of Tears hasn't yet happened.The protagonist is a white orphan who is sent into Cherokee territory for some reason or another, and he is soon taken in by a man named Bear. Will begins to learn the Cherokee language--which is a good deal more complex than English, actually, something I didn't know. The language has many more tenses.Will grows up throughout the story, and there is your typical lost love plot. Sometimes he seems a wee bit high and mighty, but overall it is an excellent story. Very sad, very long...and it has a deep feel to it... it feels like the South, like Tennessee. Yes. I'm realizing it now... that deep, slightly sad but proud vibe that runs in the Tennessee hills is captured in this story.