Cold Mountain begins with Inman, a confederate soldier, laid up convalescing in a military hospital. As he heals, his dread of returning to the fighting grows and he eventually decides to strike out for home and his left love—in the shadows of Cold Mountain (near Brevard in modern-day western North Carolina). That left love, Ada, a preacher’s daughter originally from Charleston, meanwhile, is trying to cope with the loss of her father and her newfound destitution. She may not have survived but for a partnership with a mountain woman, Ruby, her complete opposite in almost every way and her likeness in every other.
I grew up in this part of the country, with roots in the area that go back to well before the Civil War, and the language rings truer than any I have read elsewhere, whether written by Ron Rash, Cormac McCarthy, or whoever. And Frazier does it without resorting to phonetic spelling. It really does read like it’s a story your grandfather is telling you by the fireplace after Sunday dinner. One that was passed down to him from his grandfather. There are so many sort of random details that just feel right. It’s the sort of book I wanted to read at my desk with a notebook beside me but that I couldn’t bear to read so slowly the first time through. The prose is beautiful by any measure.