…Walking to Gatlinburg is less about the realitiesor fantastical fictionsof the war and more about Morgan's coming-of-age drama. Howard Frank Mosher has been writing about the Kinneson family in one way or another for years. He has said that the larger-than-life villain, Ludi Too, the zither-playing madman draped in the rank bearskin, is based upon his own great-great-grandfather, who endeavored to blow up his family but succeeded, fortunately, only in blowing up himself. For loyal followers of the doings of the Kinneson tribe and the long literary career of Mosher himself, Walking to Gatlinburg will be a welcome treat.
The Washington Post
A Civil War odyssey in the tradition of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Robert Olmstead’s Coal Black Horse, Mosher’s latest (after On Kingdom Mountain), about a Vermont teenager’s harrowing journey south to find his missing-in-action brother, is old-fashioned in the best sense of the word. Seventeen-year-old Morgan Kinneson goes in search of his older brother, Pilgrim, a Union soldier reported MIA at Gettysburg. But first, Morgan accidentally causes the death of a runaway slave he was leading to safety in Canada. In the course of tracking down his missing brother, Morgan is pursued by slave catchers, accompanies an elephant on an Erie Canal showboat, visits the battlefield at Gettysburg, meets an escaped slave who turns out to be the dead slave’s granddaughter, and gets wounded during a mountain feud before learning of Pilgrim’s fate. Complicating matters is a rune stone the dead slave left to Morgan, which could compromise the security of the Underground Railroad if the slave catchers get their hands on it. The story of Morgan’s rite-of-passage through an American arcadia despoiled by war and slavery is an engrossing tale with mass appeal. (Mar.)
Late in the Civil War, 17-year-old Morgan Kinneson from northern Vermont gets deeply involved with his family's participation in the Underground Railroad when the slave he's leading toward Canada is murdered. Overwhelmed by remorse (he had wandered away to hunt a moose), he sets off on an odyssey in search of his older brother, Pilgrim, who was reported missing from the Union army. With the slave's murderers on his trail and carrying a mysterious stone he found in the murdered man's pockets, Morgan meets up with a wild variety of characters as his path leads him toward the Great Smokey Mountains. VERDICT A colorful re-creation of the era and a likable and engaging protagonist recommend this book to lovers of classically told adventure tales.—Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L.
There are two good reasons to go to Gatlinburg. One is to visit Dolly Parton's theme park. Mosher (On Kingdom Mountain, 2007, etc.) limns the other in this expertly written novel. Longtime readers of Mosher will not be surprised to find that his latest opens on ground well trod in other novels: the mountain country of northern Vermont, and specifically Kingdom Mountain, his Yoknapatawpha County. Morgan Kinneson is an exceedingly bright 17-year-old who has spent his young life exploring every corner of the mountain, becoming so knowledgeable about the place that he and his older brother Pilgrim had brought the pioneering naturalist Louis Agassiz "to the mountaintop to examine the glacial erratics, boulders brought down from the Far North by the great ice sheet." Things have changed now, for Pilgrim, who had been packed off to college, has joined the Union Army and has now gone missing at the Battle of Gettysburg. Helping a runaway slave make his way north to Canada, Morgan is attacked by mysterious renegades-or are they rebel spies?-who want something of the fugitive's. That something (readers of On Kingdom Mountain might just have a clue as to what it is), and perhaps a curse on his "yallow head" by one of his fallen tormentors, puts Morgan on a run that takes him to the still-fresh battlefield, down the back of the mountains and deep into the Confederacy in search of his missing brother. Morgan battles illness and attendant hallucinations, enjoys a "peaceful interlude in the heart of the land of the Brethren," spends time in the rebel capital, falls in love and otherwise has grand adventures that would seem improbable in lesser hands. And if a long walk through the Civil War-era Southseems familiar, consider the author of the echoing book one of those lesser hands by comparison with Mosher, who closes with a grand unexpected moment that, on reflection, makes perfect sense. We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel.
Praise for Walking to Gatlinburg
An Indie Next Notable Pick
"Mosher is a rare storyteller, able to both instruct and entertain, and he brings all his talents to this unforgettable and unique novel."
"A Civil War odyssey in the tradition of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Robert Olmstead’s Coal Black Horse, Mosher’s latest, about a Vermont teenager’s harrowing journey south to find his missing-in-action brother, is old-fashioned in the best sense of the word....The story of Morgan’s rite-of-passage through an American arcadia despoiled by war and slavery is an engrossing tale with mass appeal.
"We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel."
–Kirkus, starred review
"[A] haunting and hallucinatory novel....Historical realism this isn’t but it is a violent, often puzzling picaresque with an invigorating take on the Underground Railroad and an unsettling vision of an America despoiled by the War between the States."
Praise for Howard Frank Mosher
“Mosher is an old-fashioned writer, a storyteller of the first order; he has written a page-turner in the best sense of the word.”
“A combination of Ernest Hemingway, Henry David Thoreau, and Jim Harrison.”
–Los Angeles Times
“Mosher calls to mind the best of Mark Twain – mischievous, touching, and very funny.”
“Rollicking, boisterous, sprawling, and highly entertaining.”
“Revives the tall tale with remarkable grace and intelligence … delightful.”
“Mosher is a gifted storyteller with a solid sense of place and history.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer
“One of our very best writers … Mosher offers us a landscape, both natural and human, worth knowing, worth believing in.”