Very seldom do I come across a novel I would read twice, but Cold Mountain is certainly one of those remarkable works. Charles Frazier creates such a strong sense of place throughout the story; there were moments I could nearly smell the burning cedar of a smoldering fire or feel the coolness of mist hitting my skin. Regardless of plot or characters, his exquisite descriptions of the American landscape were enough to captivate and move me. The land itself became a character, a living, breathing, changing force that catalyzed change in every other character.
The story is very simple, a tale of love set during the Civil War. Inman, a Confederate soldier injured during the battle at Petersburg, desperately wants to return home to Cold Mountain and to Ada, the woman he loves. So one day, he sets out on his epic journey West, heading towards the Blue Ridge Mountains. Meanwhile, Ada, who has recently lost her father and been left alone to maintain his land, struggles to keep up with the demands of her new life. It is only through the help of Ruby, a rugged, independent woman that Ada is able to survive the year. Their interwoven stories offer very different perspectives of how the war desecrated the South and its people. But the evolving love between Ada and Inman was a consistent beam of hope shining its light on the dark and ominous truth of war and the inevitability of death.
Inman's journey is described as an "American Odyssey," and the scope of his quest certainly lives up to this description. His chance encounters with stock characters of the South keenly illustrate the perils of wartime: poverty, slavery, brutality, and injustice.
Packed full of symbolism, irony, humor, and grief, Cold Mountain is a story that will linger in your heart and mind long after the final line.