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Nightwoods

Charles Frazier returns to the mountains of North Carolina – this time in the 1960s – to tell the story of a young woman charged with caring for her murdered sister's children.

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Nightwoods
By Charles Frazier
Random House
259 pp.

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“I think there’s that old culture of America that’s gone,” author Charles Frazier told an NPR interviewer during a conversation about his award-winning 1997 novel “Cold Mountain.” “I suppose when I was a child in the Southern Appalachians, there was just a moment when you could see a little, little vestiges of that, and part of [“Cold Mountain”] is an elegy for that old America.”

Frazier’s wonderful new novel, Nightwoods, is no less elegiac than was “Cold Mountain.” “Cold Mountain” is a Civil War novel, but “Nightwoods” – set in the rural North Carolina of Frazier’s 1960s childhood – takes us to a world every bit as remote.

The novel’s protagonist Luce is a wild beauty who seems firmly – even stubbornly – rooted in the North Carolina of the past. She lives alone in a forsaken lodge on a forgotten lake that was once a retreat for the rich of another century. “Now the millionaires and the railroad were gone,” Frazier writes. “But the lake remained, a weird color-shifting horizontal plane set in an otherwise convoluted vertical landscape of blue and green mountains.”

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