I began reading this novel without any notion of what the book was about. There was no synopsis of the book with the manuscript I received. Being the new Charles Frazier was more than enough for me to dive in. However I did struggle to initially get into the book because on the surface this is a very different novel to Frazier’s two previous books COLD MOUNTAIN and THIRTEEN MOONS but it is surprising the similar themes it does eventually touch on.
The novel is set in 1960s North Carolina in a small mountain town. The story centers on Luce who is the caretaker of a rundown lodge outside of town. She has withdrawn herself from the world. However when her estranged sister is murdered she must look after her sister’s troubled young twins who have do not seem able to speak and demonstrate a knack for starting fires. When her sister’s husband, Bud, is acquitted of the murder of Luce’s sister, despite his obvious guilt, he sets out to track the twins down. In another writer’s hands this could be a fast-paced, crime-thriller but with Frazier it is a different book entirely. It is an intense character study set amongst a vivid and unforigiving landscape.
While initially the twins are quite disturbing, like Luce, you begin to understand them and form an affinity for them. Luce is gradually coaxed away from her self-imposed isolation. However Bud looms as a menacing and unbalanced threat which builds to a dramatic conclusion in the wilds of the mountain forest.