“Life can get fucked up fast when you try to be a pleaser. Because people won’t ever be pleased, not even if you drop them ass-first into paradise. They like bitching too much.”
That sums up Nightwoods pretty well, everyone has a chance to be satisfied, but they either aren’t comfortable with it, or they outright reject it. A couple of dynamic characters change, and become accepting of all the joys change can offer, and others don’t change and meet their end. Very classic storyline in that regard.
My reading this book was a case of mistaken identity. I had read an article about Jonathan Franzen being the great writer of the last ten years. That article, and my curiosity inspired me so much so that, months after reading it, I saw a book by a best selling author and I remembered that the article was about a guy whose name began with an F and an R, so obviously this Charles Frazier guy was who I was thinking of. Ironically, I’ve only picked up a copy of a Franzen book in the last couple of weeks, after holding on to Nightwoods all this time.
The story starts with Luce, who has taken in the orphaned children of her murdered sister. The kids are damaged goods. They don’t speak, except to each other, and they really like destroying things. Their step father is the person who murdered their mother, which they are the only witnesses, the step father, Bud, gets acquitted through some legal bull. Bud goes hunting for the kids, because they are the only witnesses, even if they aren’t speaking, and because they’re supposed to know where a lot of money that his wife hid from him is. Luce also starts to fall in love with her landlord.
Frazier strikes a perfect tone with his writing, but the scenes he is describing so often seem to fall short of his ominous writing. The things he writes aren’t exactly light, but they aren’t as dark as the writing makes you want them to be. Bud should be a crazy bastard; he’s a calculating one, who makes the measured moves he needs to survive.
The whole time I was reading this book I wanted to be watching The Night of the Hunter. Bud should have been as threatening as Robert Mitchum, he was made out as a killer who was haunted by past religious experience. I understand that Frazier couldn’t have written Hunter, he was trying to add a complex family portrait by bringing in Luce’s mother and father who are no help to her. At the core, the tone of the book wanted to be Night of the Hunter. The climax of the story always had to be Bud hunting the children, but it just doesn’t amount to the tension that it could’ve. For a book that is being marketed as a thriller, this is a big blow