Will Cooper's search for identity and home begins at the age of twelve, when he is given a horse, a key and a map, and sent to the edge of the Cherokee Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. With a Cherokee chief named Bear and the mysterious and beautiful Claire Featherstone, Will finds the passionate connections and the complications of manhood that will forge his character and shape his life. As his fate becomes intertwined with the destiny of the Cherokee, Will travels to Washington City to fight against the Removal of the Indians from their land to protect Bear's people, their culture, and way of life.
In a voice filled with insight, humour and regret, Will tells of a long life's journey, from the beautiful forests and mountains of the Nation across the South and up and down the Mississippi River, and on into the twentieth century. Thirteen Moons is a novel of breathtaking power and beauty, by an American master.
I like to read the back cover copy sometimes just for the spin they try to put on things. Can Charles Frazier be an American master after only one previous book? Did they read the same book that I did?
I have owned Charles Frazier's first book, Cold Mountain, for at least two years. If I recall correctly I got it off of the 3 for 2 table at Borders because (a) I had heard of it, (b) I didn't own it yet, and (c) there were two other books that I really wanted to get so I might as well get a third one for free right? I have never even picked it up off the shelf, and yet, it's setting is certainly one that I should love.
Our main character is Will Cooper, a young boy who is cast out into the wilderness to serve as a bound boy at a trading post. Before he even gets to his destination, he meets some shifty characters, and also a young girl named Claire Featherstone, who all end up playing pivotal roles in his life. Once at the outpost he is taken under the wing of a Cherokee chief by the name of Bear, and between them over the years they fight to keep Bear's people on their land, and not be sent to the new reserves in the west. The story then continues through telling us of the events of his life until his current age of about 90.
If I had to choose only a couple of words to describe this book they would probably be slow and ponderous. Now that isn't always a bad thing, but it isn't necessarily a good thing either.
Even though lots of things happened in this book including madly passionate love affairs, fortunes won and lost, duels, the Civil War, the coming of the rail road, the Trail of Tears and even though many well known historical figures make appearances including Davy Crockett and President Andrew Jackson, the book feels inordinately slow and, well, slow.
There were certainly beautifully written sections, with the author labouring over the descriptions of the beauty of the land and the passing of time but they weren't enough to make this a beautiful read. Given the adventures of Will Cooper, this book could have been amazing, but to me personally, it just wasn't!
By reading this book I certainly haven't been inspired to pick up Cold Mountain any time soon. Maybe one day I will, but in the meantime I have plenty of other books on my TBR list to get to.
To quote the Washington Post review (quite an entertaining read in itself) that is up on Amazon for this book: "Thirteen Moons is going to be putting a whole bunch of people to sleep".