Review: Nightwoods


By Charles Frazier
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067091, September 2011, 272pp.)

The Short of It:

The looming darkness of this story is unrelenting and wickedly constructed.

The Rest of It:

Set  among the Appalachians during the 1960’s, Luce is a women who has literally turned her back on society. Working as a caretaker for an abandoned lodge, Luce takes pleasure in being alone. Her sister is dead and gone, murdered by a brutal man who took the term “got away with murder” to a whole new level. Luce’s life is suddenly complicated by the children that her sister left behind. Delivered to her by a social worker, she is forced to care for them and this proves much more difficult than it sounds. These children are broken, wild creatures that can’t be left alone with chickens or any other living thing. As she works to break down the barriers of communication, she finds that these children, the only remnant that remains of her sister, mean more to her than she is willing to admit and when her sister’s killer comes around for them, her strength is put to the test.

What a lovely little book. Dark, gritty but lovely in the way that only dark, haunting woods can be. I didn’t care for Frazier’s other book, Cold Mountain. In fact, I had a real aversion to it and forced myself to read it because I felt I had to. You know how it is, everyone was talking about and I certainly didn’t want to be left out of the discussion so I forced it down like castor oil. This was not the case with Nightwoods.

In Nightwoods, I was fascinated with these kids. Their wildness and the fact that they witnessed their mother’s death. What a horrible thing for them to have gone through. I was also taken with Bud, the man who killed their mother. He is the epitome of evil but dressed up all nice and pretty with equal doses of charm and swagger. When he decides to go after the kids, because he believes they know where some money is hidden, you know as a reader that he means what he says. His pursuit of them is unsettling as is their perception of what danger is.

Reading this was like being in the woods with all of its deep, dark secrets. It’s a very atmospheric novel and although I would have liked to know a bit more about Luce and her background, I felt as if I knew enough for this story to work for me. As dark as the subject matter is, it’s a good book to read if you want to escape from the day-to-day. It’s suspenseful, but not overly so. If you enjoy luscious, gorgeous prose… you will enjoy it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

26 thoughts on “Review: Nightwoods”

  1. it sounds deliciously dark. i’m not a fan of Cold Mountain either, but I’ll certainly try this one.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, it was unexpectedly riveting and absorbing and the writing was sublime.

  3. I really enjoyed Cold Mountain, but that was either before or after all the hype about it. This one is something I’ve been on the fence about.

  4. Like you, I was not a fan of Cold Mountain (thought I was the only one!!!) For that reason, I did not intend to read this one but now think that I will give it a chance. Thanks.

  5. Thanks for this great review, Ti. I liked Cold Mountain, didn’t love it, and was wondering about this one. Your review has me adding it to the TBR list.

  6. I really disliked Cold Mountain and have been avoiding this one. Your review has convinced me to give it a chance – sounds like the kind of book I’d enjoy.

    1. I have little patient for weird, mountain children but these kids pulled at my heartstrings… just a tiny bit. Enough to make me want to know more about them.

  7. I HATED Cold Mountain, and never actually finished it. This, on the other hand, intrigues me, and makes me want to go out and try it right now. Your description of this book is amazingly chilling, and now I need to find out more. What a deeply affecting review today. I must read this!

    1. The kids are not right, that’s a given but they were also abused. I had sympathy for them and Luce because there are moments of tenderness between the two children. They speak their own language, etc. It would be difficult to break through that kind of barrier but not impossible.

    1. As I have been prone to do lately…I listened to the audio version at the gym and it was very good…what I heard of it.

  8. At times, I thought I should try Cold Mountain. After what you said left me cold. Glad you like this book though.

  9. I have gone back and forth on picking this one up because I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Like you I didn’t live Cold Mountain although I loved the movie and I was worried this one would be the same. Looks like I’ll have to pick it up- I love a dark read!

  10. I really enjoyed this one. Was not a fan of Cold Mountain. Wasn’t sure what to expect. Good one for book clubs.

    1. It’s dark and atmospheric but scary in that this is their life. Not really spooky except for the woods. Fall would be a good time to read it.

  11. I did not care for Cold Mountain either but this premise is very interesting to me. Having grown up just hours from the Appalachians and having gone to college there for my first 2 years I have a little bit of a fascination with wild mountain people stories, haha.

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