The story involves two related strands of plot: Inman, wounded during a Civil War battle, makes his way home to Cold Mountain and to his love, Ada Monroe; Ada, in the meantime, struggles to cultivate her failing farmland. Cold Mountain is usually tied to Odysseus and his journey home. But it's also a failed return to Eden; after all, Odysseus makes it back to Penelope and Ithaca while Inman, poor boy, is out. His loss of innocence and experience of evil mean he can never gain re-entrance to paradise. (Ada specifically tells us her name is pronounced with a short, not long, vowel sound. Add the first initial of her last name, and you get AdaM. A little schematic, but there it is.
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Rich in evocative physical detail and timeless human insight, this debut novel set in the Civil War era rural South considers themes both grand (humanity's place in nature) and intimate (a love affair transformed by the war) as a wounded soldier makes his way home to the highlands of North Carolina and to his pre-war sweetheart. Shot in the neck during fighting at Petersburg, Inman was not expected to survive. After regaining the strength to walk, he begins his dangerous odyssey. Just as the traumas of life on the battlefront have changed Inman, the war's new social and economic conditions have left their mark on Ada. With the death of her father and loss of income from his investments, Ada can no longer remain a pampered Charleston lady, but must eke out a living from her father's farm in the Cold Mountain community, where she is an outsider.Frazier vividly depicts the rough and varied terrain of Inman's travels and the colorful characters he meets, all the while avoiding Federal raiders and the equally brutal Home Guard. The sweeping cycle of Inman's homeward journey is deftly balanced by Ada's growing sense of herself and her connection to the natural world around the farm. In a leisurely, literate narrative, Frazier shows how lives of soldiers and of civilians alike deepen and are transformed as a direct consequence of the war's tragedy. There is quiet drama in the tensions that unfold as Inman and Ada come ever closer to reunion, yet farther from their former selves.
This monumental novel is set at the end of the Civil War and follows the journey of a wounded Confederate soldier named Inman as he returns home. Interwoven is the story of Ada, the woman he loves. Ada, who was raised in genteel society, cannot cope with the rigors of war until a woman called Ruby arrives to help her. Inman comes across memorable characters like the goatwoman, who lives off the secret herbs in the woods and Sara, a woman stranded with an infant who is assaulted by Yankee soldiers whom Inman later kills. After a long, threatening journey, Inman finally arrives home to Ada, 'ravaged, worn ragged and wary and thin.' A remarkable effort that opens up a historical past that will enrich readers not only with its story but with its strong characters. —David A. Beron, University of New England, Biddeford, ME.
A grim story about a tough, resourceful Southern family in the Civil War is somewhat submerged by the weight of lyrical detail piled on the tale, and by the slow pace of the telling. There's no doubt that Frazier can write; the problem is that he stops so often to savor the sheer pleasure of the act of writing in this debut effort. Inman, seeing that the end of the war is near, decides to leave his regiment and go back home to Ada, the bright, stubborn woman he loves. His adventures traversing a chaotic, impoverished land, Ada's struggles to preserve her father's farm, and the harsh, often powerful tales of the rough-hewn individuals they encounter take up most of the narrative. The tragic climax is convincing but somewhat rushed, given the many dilatory scenes that have preceded it. Frazier has Cormac McCarthy's gift for rendering the pitch and tang of regional speech, and for catching some of the true oddity of human nature, but he doesn't yet possess McCarthy's ferocious focus. A promising but overlong, uneven debut.
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