Welcome to our inaugural Alice Gossage Book Club online chat! We'll get started at 11.
I'll be your moderator and we have several others in the newsroom ready to chat too. So crack open your book and get ready to tell us what you thought.
I'm ready to invoke the memory of RCJ publisher Alice Gossage. Did anyone bring wine and chocolate to aid the literary discussion?
We should at least have coffee!
For anyone who hasn't read the book but would like to follow along, we're reading "Nightwoods" by Charles Frazier. Here is a synopsis from the publisher, Random House:
The extraordinary author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons returns with a dazzling new novel of suspense and love set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s.
Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while losing none of the transcendent prose, virtuosic storytelling, and insight into human nature that have made him one of the most beloved and celebrated authors in the world. Now, with his brilliant portrait of Luce, a young woman who inherits her murdered sister’s troubled twins, Frazier has created his most memorable heroine.
Before the children, Luce was content with the reimbursements of the rich Appalachian landscape, choosing to live apart from the small community around her. But the coming of the children changes everything, cracking open her solitary life in difficult, hopeful, dangerous ways.
Charles Frazier is known for his historical literary odysseys, and for making figures in the past come vividly to life. Set in the twentieth century, Nightwoods resonates with the timelessness of a great work of art.
Since I read it, instead of listening to it on Audible, I have a very basic question for you all: How did you pronounce the protaganist's Luce's name: Luc-ee or Loos? For some reason, I think it matters.
I kept pronouncing Loos, since it was short for Lucinda.
That's an excellent question and I wondered the same thing. I read it as "Loose," and thought Luce might be a reference to light, but I bet it's just regular "Lucy."
I guess I missed that it was Lucinda!
Mary do you listen to a lot of books on Audible and how does that change the "reading" experience for you?
I don't listen to as many as some of my friends -- I find I miss the ability to go back and look through things when I'm listening on an MP3. Mostly only when I take a long road trip.
I'll have to try that -- I'm afraid it might lull me to sleep.
I tend to zone out when I listen to a book on tape. It seems to make the experience less personal.
OK, I've got to ask, where is Ruth?
I bet with this book, especially if it were read by the author, it could really help set the mood though. I loved the lush descriptions of the lodge and woods.
Ruth had to go on assignment. She thought she might be able to join us while in the car (she's not driving).
I’d like to talk about the writing. Some critics (and many of us at the Journal) found it beautiful and compelling. Entertainment Weekly said, “…Charles Frazier's tough and lovely third novel can be slow going, partly due to its contemplative pace and partly because its dazzling sentences are so meticulously constructed that you find yourself rereading them, trying to unpack their magic.”
But some critics said it was “overwrought.” The New York Times reviewer said, “It’s too bad the writing gets in the way of the storytelling.”
Did you enjoy the writing? Or did it bog you down?
I did enjoy the writing. Everyone kept saying that it was a "literary" book, which might have scared some people off. I was prepared to read it just to enjoy the creative turn of phrase. But I found myself pulled into the story.
Some of my favorite sentences:
I loved the book -- and Frazier's unusual approach to just dropping bits of the plot into a snippet of dialogue.. But I loved his book "Cold Mountain" even more.
"Always looking for an opportunity to cast our sad little package of hope into a future we won't inhabit." and "Lit wore his dark hair combed straight back, shiny with Brylcreem, comb tracks straight as soybean rows."
The description to me worked because like Mary said it forwarded the plot. The description of the dark hole in the woods wasn't just painting with words, it set up an ominous thread that you knew would unravel later in the story.
Mary, I liked how Frazier did the "slow reveal" in moving the plot along. It's almost like you might miss a crucial element if you weren't paying attention. It kind of matched how the characters were trying to distance themselves from the dysfunction in their lives.
What conclusion did you come to about the money that Lily took from Bud? Did the kids have it all along? If so, where did they hide it? Those were some resourceful young'uns, as they might say in Appalachia.
It sounded like the money was in the smokehouse with all of Lily's things. Of course, to the kids, it was just something to use to light fires. I'm surprised no one found it there.
Yea, I wondered if it was in the lining of her jewelry box and hatbox and train case that they pulled apart. He doesn't mention it specifically but it seemed to hint at that.
He said "they began heaping the stuff back into the big box, leaving until last the
fake ponytail and useful stacks of paper tinder wrapped in red bands."
Oh, see I missed that about the Paper Tinder!! So, Luce never looked through Lily's box? Or did she?
Luce seemed to be in denial about many things. Maybe she had no reason to look through Lily's things.
Yeah it sounds like she just stuffed it all in the smokehouse and left. She also didnt' have much use for fancy wigs!
I'm leaving for coffee now....discuss among yourselves...
Lynn wants to talk about the kids (she's a mother of twins). Do you think they will ever be normal? And why did they need to deconstruct everything? And why light things on fire? Because they had power in flames?
He continues, "Dolores heald one stack of tinder near her face and thumbed bottom to top and let the dry flammable leaves flutter her cheek." It was a nice memory when they then remembered their mother telling them she loved them. More important than the "tinder."
After all they had gone through, I'd want to set a few things on fire myself.
Luce thinks, "They want to travel on, put an end to days where every moment begins in fear. Shift the load soemwhere else. So they strike a wood match and hold its power between thumb and forefinger."
Clearly the kids were traumatized by what they saw and what Bud did to them. I think the fire was just a way to release some of that anger.
I wonder why fire, and not hitting or yelling or something else.
Were there any plot points that you wanted to see resolved that weren't?
Good question -- like whether Bud will ever return?
I was fine with the ending being unknown. With all the religious symbolism in the book, it was sort of like, will Bud rise from the dead?
I was hoping Bud was dead at the end. What I really wanted was some kind of payoff when Lit realized that his best buddy Bud was the man who killed his daughter. But the author didn't really give him the chance to act noble. Or maybe we would have been disappointed in Lit's lack of action. He wasn't the best father (understatement).
Yes, I decided that Lit was a lost cause, and then he redeemed himself with Luce's razor. Father of the Year.