By Charles Frazier
Atlantic Monthly Press
Hardback, 358 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Even rustic Cold Mountain, NC feels the cold embrace of the Civil War and most of its young men answer the call to fight. Some of the more hardened stay behind and form the Home Guard, which amounts to nothing more than a group of violent men intent on delivering their own brand of justice to those they call outliers, deserters of the war.
This is the story of two people in Cold Mountain who meet, are separated by the war, and meet again, both drastically changed by the hardships they’ve endured. Inman, a Confederate soldier, walks away from the hospital where he’s being treated for a near-fatal wound and begins his long journey to reach Ada, the one woman he hopes can save him from his despair over humanity. Ada Monroe is a socialite whose preacher father took her to the isolated backcountry of Cold Mountain, NC. When Ada’s father dies shortly after the war begins, she finds herself alone and destitute. To her rescue comes Ruby, a homeless young woman who lives her life relying on natural signs. Ruby teaches Ada many life lessons, foremost of which, how to survive on her own.
While working his way back to Ada, Inman encounters every sort of danger imaginable, from men intent on killing him to wild animals. Ada encounters her own hardships, from starvation to hard living. The two work toward one another, physically and mentally, and when they meet have reached the point where their lives can merge into something truly beautiful.
Cold Mountain is a fascinating read; filled with historical and geographical information wrapped around a beautiful love story. Frazier’s style is eloquent, lyrical, and mesmerizing. He uses unique phraseology relative to the time of the story and delivers characters the reader does not soon forget.