Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I cried for 20 minutes when I finished Cold Mountain on my back porch at my shitty apartment back on Dooley Avenue in Richmond, VA. First, because I had finished the book and didn't want it to end. Second, because I couldn't believe it ended the way it did. Third, because I had never read such a deeply heartfelt love story in my young life. I felt like this man had grown up as a part of my family, researched my family tree, somehow acquired their voices, and then written a book about them.
Upon finishing Thirteen Moons I cried again. Not as melodramatically (anyone passing Dooley Avenue the day I finished Cold Mountain would've thought someone had died) but just as achingly. I opened the back flap of the book and stared long and hard at this man. At this artist who had created this novel. And I hated him. And I loved him. I work like hell to be a writer, and in my wildest dreams, the ones I have at night when you lie awake and just let your mind wander and think sure, that could happen, I think maybe I could be a great writer. A great writer like my favorite author William Kennedy. Someone who creates stories about people who lived. People who loved and hated and died and struggled and people you care about and connect to.
But I hated Mr. Frazier. The jealousy I feel when I read his words knows no bounds. Because I know no matter how hard I work I'll never be able to write like him. Not only does he create kick ass stories, but he does it with a poet's heart and sensibility. Imagine Hemingway as a poet. Every word has its place. Every sentence is its own music. Not only is this an astounding story, one that pulls you in from its very first pages, it is a musical story, one I feel might even be more profound if read aloud. I kept hearing Kevin Spacey's voice as I was reading, lilting over every syllable, slowly drawing out the story as if he was rocking in a chair on a porch and had all the time in the world to tell it to you. God it's beautiful.
As for the story itself? I loved it even more than Cold Mountain. There is a love story here, but it's only a part. Will Cooper is an old man when the book begins, and he spends the rest of the novel telling you the adventures he's lived through. How he was orphaned then indentured to a store owner in the Wilderness of the North Carolina mountains in the early 1800's. How a Cherokee tribe adopted him as their own son. How he fought for them, for his adopted family, for the right to their land when the US Government ordered them to leave. And all the adventures in between. Who cares if most of it is fiction. It's a great fucking story.
I'll admit I'm biased. I love reading books like this - long, meandering sagas told by a single narrator who has lived a LIFE and has a story to tell. It's probably because I love meeting and knowing people like this. It's probably because I want to write books like this. But damn you Charles Frazier I wish I could just mind meld with you for 30 seconds so maybe some of that ability to knit an incredible yarn while at the same time weaving poetry all through it would sink into my psyche somehow. Please write another book. Take your time. I'll wait as long as it takes. And thank you for lifting me up with your words. My life is better because of it. My ambition to write is larger because of it.*
*Yeah, I know this review is kiss-ass adulation to the nth power. Don't give a shit. The guy fucking rocks. And I don't think I'll ever look at the full moon in the same way again. In fact, I'm going to buy some sort of "Moon Calendar" so I know which one is shining. THAT is the effect this book had on me.
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