Is it safe to write Charles Frazier may not produce a second literary masterpiece? Yet, his third novel, Nightwoods, comes closer to this feat than his second book .
Nightwoods shows how bad life can be for some (Luce) and how bad some can be for life (Bud). Luce, the main character, is so much an introvert. She won’t allow readers to fall in love with her; and without an emotional connection, it’s hard to root for her. She runs from the past and tries to keep the present at bay by isolating herself as caretaker of an abandoned lodge.
Bud has a misconception about the blood of Jesus and sets out to find his deceased wife’s children; the only witnesses to a heinous crime committed against their mother.
Stubblefield brings life to Nightwoods. We cheer for him and can’t wait to find out whether he is the much needed hero in this languid account set in a 1960’s mountain community.
Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly (September 30, 2011), explains Frazier’s meticulous sentence structure necessitates rereading certain passages. Brunner says, because the reader is trying to “unpack the magic” of Frazier’s sentences, the book feels longer than its 260 pages.
Now, with all due respect to Mr. Frazier and Mr. Brunner, I disagree. There is a noticeable disconnect in Frazier’s prose for sure. The writing feels over edited, deadline rushed. The magic is missing and the reader feels tricked.
The brink of suspense is etched throughout Nightwoods. In several scenes, we are ready to hold our breath, brace ourselves for impact. Then, like a tease, the author backs off. The story suffers without the nerve-wracking follow through.
Don’t expect Nightwoods to be Cold-Mountain great. It isn’t. But, it is worth reading, after all Charles Frazier is the author. And we love him. We will continue to read anything he writes. Who knows? He may not produce a second literary masterpiece. Then again, he just may.