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In New Novel, Frazier Returns to Love in Appalachia

Nearly a decade after the release of his best-selling first novel, Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier returns to the mountains of Appalachia for his second novel, Thirteen Moons. It is narrated by Will Cooper, who recalls nearly a century of his life in western North Carolina, at the edge of what was the Cherokee Nation.

Cooper is an orphan who is sent out to run a trading post on the frontier by himself at age 12. He's adopted by the Cherokee, eventually becomes a lawyer, a senator and a white chief of the tribe. He tells the story of the Army's forced removal of the Cherokee from their land in the late 1830s. It's also the story of Cooper's overpowering love for the elusive Claire Featherstone.

Thirteen Moons began as a stack of unused note cards left over from Cold Mountain, a love story set in North Carolina during the last year of the Civil War. Frazier found the inspiration for Cooper's character when he ran across an intriguing reference: a white man in a mental institution in North Carolina who, on many days, spoke only Cherokee. His name was William Holland Thomas.

"I kept coming back to it and wondering about this man, and wondering about that time, that period of transition where the southern Appalachians was a frontier," he says of how he began to formulate the story in his mind.

Frazier discusses his new novel with NPR's Melissa Block. An excerpt from the book is below.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.