By Charles Frazier

(Random House, $26, 272 pages

Who is this author?

Charles Frazier was teaching literature part-time when he realized that the story of his great-great uncle’s life would make a great basis for a novel. He blended this tale of a Confederate soldier who goes AWOL with the classic story of Ulysses on his wandering journey home to his wife and came up with the smash debut novel, “Cold Mountain,” a best-seller that won a National Book Award in 1997 and became a movie with Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Rene Zellweger.

Frazier followed that with “Thirteen Moons,” another best seller that won critical praise. Now the author, who grew up in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and lives in Asheville, is back with another novel set in Appalachia, but this time in the 1960s.

What is this book about?

The central character is a woman named Luce who has chosen to retreat from society in a rambling, empty hotel called the Lodge in the North Carolina mountains. Her solitary existence is upended when her sister, Lily, is brutally murdered by her husband, Bud, and their emotionally damaged young twins are sent to live with their unprepared aunt. The kids don’t speak and are fascinated by fire, two traits that the reader knows must lead to trouble. What Luce doesn’t know is that their father, who has escaped justice, is on an implacable search for money he believes Lily once had and Luce and the twins have now. Luce’s only friend is a man named Stubblefield; her only mission is to connect with the kids, and slowly, things brighten. But when Bud arrives to complete his violent quest, the tale turns dark indeed.

Why you’ll like it:

Frazier is known for creating compelling characters and vividly depicting the settings of his novels. The magnificent Blue Ridge mountains give him plenty to work with, and he knows the territory by heart. He’s also gifted at portraying relationships, which he does well in this story of tenderness threatened by cold violence.

What others are saying:

“Nightwoods is no typical thriller….its dazzling sentences are so meticulously constructed that you find yourself rereading them, trying to unpack their magic…the unhurried, poetic suspense is both difficult to bear and impossible to shake,” says Entertainment Weekly.

“…[A] taut narrative of love and suspense, told against a gritty background of bootlegging and violence. The characters are rich and unforgettable, and the prose almost lyrical. This is Charles Frazier at his best,” says Booklist

“Fantastic … an Appalachian Gothic with a low-level fever that runs alternately warm and chilling,”  saysThe Washington Post.

The Bioston Globe calls it “astute and compassionate . . .a virtuoso construction . . . with wickedly wry dialogue reminiscent of the best of Charles Portis, Larry Brown, and Cormac McCarthy.”

When is it available?

The Hartford Public Library has it now.

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