Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier. Random House. 422 pages.
Charles Frazier is the author of Cold Mountain, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. This book, also set in the Smoky Mountains, has much of the same feel of his first novel, which won him the National Book Award. However, I found that it lacked the necessary dramatic tension to keep my attention through the entire 422 pages.
Thirteen Moons is the story of a boy of the early 1800s who is sent at age 12 to work as an apprentice at a trading post in the Cherokee Nation, which exists at that time in the western Carolinas. It spends a lot of time describing life in that time and culture, and his unexpected love for a young girl named Claire that continues throughout his life and throughout the length of the book. It follows him throughout his life as an adopted Cherokee Indian, Indian chief, merchant, senator, and colonel during the American Civil War.
And for the most part, this book is really a love story between the main character, Will, and Claire, the girl he is obsessed with for his entire life. The problem is that they are only together for a portion of the time of the story. The rest of the story is filled with descriptions of other individuals who surround Will and interact with him in varying degrees as he goes through his life.
I enjoyed his colorful description of characters in Cold Mountain and his attention to detail, and Frazier does the same thing here to a grand degree. But what he provides in description he lacks in drama. The story kept my interest well for the first hundred pages, then dragged for the rest of the book.
It’s an interesting book for what it is, but I found it too slow for anything entertaining.
I give it three out of five stars.