Thirteen Moons.

Thirteen MoonsThirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cried for 20 minutes when I finished Cold Mountain on my back porch at my shitty apartment back on Dooley Avenue in Richmond, VA. First, because I had finished the book and didn’t want it to end. Second, because I couldn’t believe it ended the way it did. Third, because I had never read such a deeply heartfelt love story in my young life. I felt like this man had grown up as a part of my family, researched my family tree, somehow acquired their voices, and then written a book about them.

Upon finishing Thirteen Moons I cried again. Not as melodramatically (anyone passing Dooley Avenue the day I finished Cold Mountain would’ve thought someone had died) but just as achingly. I opened the back flap of the book and stared long and hard at this man. At this artist who had created this novel. And I hated him. And I loved him. I work like hell to be a writer, and in my wildest dreams, the ones I have at night when you lie awake and just let your mind wander and think sure, that could happen, I think maybe I could be a great writer. A great writer like my favorite author William Kennedy. Someone who creates stories about people who lived. People who loved and hated and died and struggled and people you care about and connect to.

But I hated Mr. Frazier. The jealousy I feel when I read his words knows no bounds. Because I know no matter how hard I work I’ll never be able to write like him. Not only does he create kick ass stories, but he does it with a poet’s heart and sensibility. Imagine Hemingway as a poet. Every word has its place. Every sentence is its own music. Not only is this an astounding story, one that pulls you in from its very first pages, it is a musical story, one I feel might even be more profound if read aloud. I kept hearing Kevin Spacey’s voice as I was reading, lilting over every syllable, slowly drawing out the story as if he was rocking in a chair on a porch and had all the time in the world to tell it to you. God it’s beautiful.

As for the story itself? I loved it even more than Cold Mountain. There is a love story here, but it’s only a part. Will Cooper is an old man when the book begins, and he spends the rest of the novel telling you the adventures he’s lived through. How he was orphaned then indentured to a store owner in the Wilderness of the North Carolina mountains in the early 1800’s. How a Cherokee tribe adopted him as their own son. How he fought for them, for his adopted family, for the right to their land when the US Government ordered them to leave. And all the adventures in between. Who cares if most of it is fiction. It’s a great fucking story.

I’ll admit I’m biased. I love reading books like this – long, meandering sagas told by a single narrator who has lived a LIFE and has a story to tell. It’s probably because I love meeting and knowing people like this. It’s probably because I want to write books like this. But damn you Charles Frazier I wish I could just mind meld with you for 30 seconds so maybe some of that ability to knit an incredible yarn while at the same time weaving poetry all through it would sink into my psyche somehow. Please write another book. Take your time. I’ll wait as long as it takes. And thank you for lifting me up with your words. My life is better because of it. My ambition to write is larger because of it.*

*Yeah, I know this review is kiss-ass adulation to the nth power. Don’t give a shit. The guy fucking rocks. And I don’t think I’ll ever look at the full moon in the same way again. In fact, I’m going to buy some sort of “Moon Calendar” so I know which one is shining. THAT is the effect this book had on me.

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Why Dogs Stopped Flying.

Before humans, dogs flew everywhere.
Their wings of silky fur wrapped hollow bones.
Their tails wagged like rudders through wind,
their stomachs bare to the sullen earth.
Out of sorrow for the first humans—
stumbling, crawling, helpless and cold—
dogs folded their great wings into paws
soft enough to walk beside us forever.
They still weep for us, pity our small noses,
our unfortunate eyes, our dull teeth.
They lick our faces clean,
keep us warm at night.
Sometimes they remember flying
and bite our ugly hands.

—-Kenneth W. Brewer

Lois

Yes, I know I need to continue with “Part 6” (has it really been two months?) but lately all I can write about, it seems, is my dog. Here is something I just finished:

Lois came into our lives on July 29, 2007 – which will be forevermore her “birthday”. My husband Bruce and I had been volunteering at Animal Friends – he walked doggies and I brushed kitty kats. We knew we wanted to adopt a dog and were really just waiting for a sign as to which one would be the “perfect” doggy friend for us.

And then Lois gave him “The Look”. Only problem was we were scheduled to go on a week’s vacation to the beach. Would she still be there when we got back? I remember I spent a lot of time looking at her picture on the Internet and sending out prayers that no one else would see what we saw in her.

Luckily, no one did. I remember filling out the form and where it said, “For what reason would you bring Lois back?” and I wrote, “We never will. We love her.” While we were filling out the adoption paperwork, the staff started calling up different volunteers and behavioral teams members to tell them that Lois had found her forever home. Lois was so excited, jumping around, catching treats in her mouth, tearing a tennis ball to bits. Riding home in the car it was like she had always been a part of our family. I sat with her in the back and she just sat there looking everywhere and smiling at everything.

The next few weeks were a definite adjustment period for all of us. Lois spent a lot of time racing around our house, looking for a “den” – a place to hide when she got scared. The first night there was a huge thunderstorm and we stayed up with her while she hid first under the coffee table, then in a closet, then in the shower stall. During those first two weeks, there was a thunderstorm every single night, a challenge to say the least. At times we felt like we had brought home a newborn baby because of lack of sleep!

Eventually we learned different strategies for dealing with her issues – her food guarding, separation anxiety, fear of thunderstorms, fear of the outside, her stubborn strong will. We hired a dog sitter as well as a behavior specialist, and over the next few weeks Lois taught us as much as we taught her. The things that frustrated me before are the things about her now that I love most.

She’s so smart! Lois knows sit, stay, down, come, leave it, wait, and is learning paw and ball. And I love that she’s stubborn – we don’t allow her on the bed, or on the couch with treats, but she constantly tests this every so often. It’s like she’s saying, “Okay, they seem tired today; I think I’ll just go for it!” I love that about her because she keeps me on my toes. All the women in my family are strong, and Lois is strong. I don’t think I’d respect her as much if she weren’t. But when she knows we are tired or sick, she is patient with us while walking, slowing down and not pulling. Lois has also been learning to approach other dogs while on her walks, slowly getting over her fear aggression. She has a Corgi puppy friend who will lick her nose, although when the poodle puppy down the block tries to sniff her butt she doesn’t like it!

Her favorite treats are hot dogs. Bruce uses them to get her out for walks in the morning (she’s not a morning person) as well as for training. Anything we need her to do, she will do for a piece of hot dog. Lois is also quite the connoisseur. We first soaked her kibble in generic, cheap chicken broth, but she won’t touch the stuff. It’s organic, free-range chicken broth for her or nothing! But that’s okay, part of the joy of having her in our lives is spoiling her rotten.

She loves her stuffed animals too – there’s a stuffed cow we call “Cowie” that she flings about and eventually tears open, spilling Cowie stuffing everywhere. We’ve gone through quite a few Cowies, Doggies, and Bearies since July!

She also loves running in Highland Park. Although she seems to get tired after a couple miles, after a minute’s rest she is good to go, ready to explore the park some more.

Belly rubs are another favorite – every morning she will travel to my side of the bed, jump up and give me a kiss, then retreat to her doggy bed and roll on her back for her morning belly rub. Sometimes she will do this on walks too – she’ll just find a perfect patch of grass, fling herself down, roll on her back and start doing the wiggle as if to say, “Puh-leeeez! I need a belly rub NOW!” It’s so cute.

We play ball with her a lot. She loves to jump in the air and catch it in her mouth. Also, she loves carrying the ball to the top of our kitchen stairs and then dropping it, watching it bounce down every step until it splashes into her water dish. It’s hysterical, she will do this over and over, fascinated by the water splash before racing up the stairs to do it all over again.

We simply love Lois with all of our hearts and feel so lucky to have her in our family. She came with such blessings as an Animal Friends staff favorite and we feel so fortunate that the wonderful staff at Animal Friends took such good care of her until we could find her. Bruce enrolled her in the doggy class, and every week there would be a new set of volunteers who showed up simply because they heard, “Lois is going to be here today!” Someone even brought us a goody bag for Lois – they used to come play ball with her on Sundays, and were happy/sad when one Sunday they arrived to find she had been adopted. They were just thrilled to see her again, and to see her so happy.

All of the love that comes across from these volunteers has settled on us and Lois and made us feel that much more blessed. Over these 4 months, her look has softened – now despite her gray muzzle, she looks and acts more like a puppy every day. Lois teaches us every day to be better, stronger, and more at peace. You see, dogs pick up on every emotion we feel. If we feel stressed, so do they. If we worry, the worry emerges in their eyes and they are worried too. There’s no other way to explain it. By being quiet and relaxed, we create a quietness and sense of relaxation in her. We are so grateful to have Lois in our lives. By teaching her not to be afraid, and to trust again, we also teach ourselves the same. And now our little family feels complete. Thank you, Lois.