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Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier is historical fiction loosely based on an actual person

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published 2006, 422 pages


I picked this book up at a sale because I loved Cold Mountain by Frazier. This one is told as memories from an old man of his life as a young boy sent away from his family. He knocks around and eventually finds a father figure and life with the Cherokee. Loosely based on the life of William Holland Thomas, it's set in the 1800s during the Cherokee 'Trail of Tears' as they were being forced off their traditional lands in North Carolina. That's a sad story in and of itself.

"Even in those early days when I was first getting to know Bear and his people, I could see that change and brutal loss had been all they had experienced for two centuries. Many of them were busy taking up white ways of life that baffled them. With every succeeding retreat of the Nation and every incursion of America, the old ways withdrew a step further into the mountains. It was not any kind of original people left. No wild Indians at all, and little raw wilderness. They were damaged people, and they lived in a broken world like everybody else."

As a young boy Will is sent off to work at a trading post where he meets Bear, a Cherokee chief. Over time they become like father and son and their long relationship is the backbone of this story. There's a star-crossed lovers story line in this book as well that I found less interesting ....somehow it seemed more superfluous to the main story of the treatment of the Cherokee and his attempts to help them. As an adult, Will puts himself in the unique position of buying up huge tracts of native land to circumvent the US government from dispossessing his adopted tribe. It's an interesting angle and works for a very long time. Till it doesn't. It is the government, after all, and they wanted the Natives gone.


Overall, I found the writing excellent - Frazier is great at drawing images of people and places with his words. I tend to get bored if there's too much nature description - short and sweet is my preference; I like compelling dialog. This book had believable dialog and I didn't find the nature descriptions boring (high praise indeed!). Sometimes poetic, sometimes droning, sometimes thoughtful and occasionally heartbreaking - Thirteen Moons is a very readable story.

"Bear believed that if we make the world around us a better place to live, our inner selves can't help but come along for the ride and we'll get better too."

I read this book a couple years ago and yet the well-told story has stayed with me. I think it will stick with you as well. Let me know if you read it, won't you? Would love your feedback.

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