Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997, 356 pp.
Genre: General Fiction
Reviewer: Kathie Nuckols Lawson
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COLD MOUNTAIN has been read by many and praised by many. I am one of the many readers and also one of many who have great praise for this novel. The story begins with the protagonist, Inman, walking away from the Army hospital where he has been recovering from a life-threatening neck wound. Inman has had enough; the Civil War is ending. He decides to leave the Southern Army and return to his home and to the woman he left behind almost four years ago. His return will be long, plodding, laborious and lonely; he will travel on foot to Cold Mountain, North Carolina
We walk with Inman and share an almost spiritual experience as the heat of summer turns to crisp fall and then to icy winter. We meet people who are good, evil, threatening, miserable, funny and all so human. With Inman we grow to appreciate nature as he observes both wild life and plant life.
An example from the closing pages of the book:
"... (Inman) went to the creek and dipped up a handful of water to drink. A salamander, wildly spotted in colors and patterns unique to that one creek, moved among the stones. Inman lifted it out and held it cupped in his hand and looked at the salamander's face. The way its mouth curved around its head shaped a smile of such great serenity as to cause Inman envy and distress."
The scene changes in the alternate chapters, and Ada, the woman Inman is striving to reach, struggles to survive the harshness of North Carolina. Completely unprepared to take care of herself, Ada is saved by the appearance of Ruby, a tough survivor. Together they manage to create an enduring relationship and establish a home for themselves, a home which eventually welcomes Inman.
In soaring, poetic language, the author tells a riveting story that is enhanced by the loveliness of vocabulary and sentence structure. This is a haunting novel that remains in the reader's heart long after the final page has been read.