The only thing that trumps time is desire
This was a wonderful book filled with a vast amount of cultural detail about the Cherokee tribe in North Carolina in the 19th century. Charles Frazier also wrote the popular book Cold Mountain, which I will review in the future. Frazier is one of the best storytellers of modern times. His words are incredibly captivating and drew me into the story like few other authors have been able to.
The novel is narrated by Will Cooper, former senator, business man, and Cherokee chief. He looks back at his life and how it intertwined with that of the Cherokee Nation. His story, just the same as his people’s, is dramatic and heartbreaking. Yet, it is one of those sad tales that we should all know. Thirteen Moons is a work of historical fiction. Each single detail may not have happened. But the suffering of the Cherokee at the hands of the U.S. government was very real. President Andrew Jackson wanted Indians completely erased from the American landscape. His 1830 Indian Removal Act called for all indians to be moved west of the Mississippi River. Many indians did migrate, but some remained. Thirteen Moons is about the Eastern Band Cherokee, those Cherokee who did not migrate to the reservation in Oklahoma.
Some of the great cultural detail in the novel include:
- The Cherokee concept of time.
- The Ghost Dance Movement.
- Visions, speech, and writing.
- Hunting rituals.
- Interactions with nature.
- Menstrual huts.
- Gender roles.
These are just a few topics that popped out of the book that I recognized as accurate from my previous Cherokee research. Frazier’s meticulous research shines through the story. I am very much appreciative for his efforts. It is a sad story, but a beautiful book.
“…That was then. The people had been fighters, but after two-hundred years of mostly losing to white men the fight had been beat out of them. They had become dirt farmers. It is tempting to look back at Bear’s people from the perspective of this modern world and see them as changeless and pure, authentic people in ways impossible for anybody to be anymore. We need Noble Savages for our own purposes. Our happy imaginings about them and the pure world they occupied do us good when incoherent change overwhelms us. But even in those early days when I was first getting to know Bear and his people, I could see that change and the 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 farther into the mountains, deeper up the dark coves and tree-tunneled creeks. 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.”