Friday, September 11, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews COLD MOUNTAIN and enjoys the chickens

Cold Mountain
Charles Frazier
Atlantic Monthly Press

Ms. Hen happened to pick up this book because she found it at the Little Free Library in Cambridge near the Science Center. She likes the little library, but there isn’t a good selection of quality fiction in it, but she grabbed this because she was planning on watching the film, and she wanted to know the story.

This novel swept Ms. Hen away. The writing is dense and winding, much like the wild country in which the characters live. The story takes place in Cold Mountain located the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

This is a story about Ada and Inman, the Civil War and the things that kept them apart. It is also about their separate journeys: Inman’s back to his home, and Ada’s journey into self-sustenance. Before Inman joined the war effort, he and Ada had a brief flirting, and it was not a relationship. He liked her, and she wasn’t sure if she liked him because she never quite liked anyone.

Ada was raised in a genteel Charleston home, and never had to take care of herself. Her father, a minister, became ill, so he bought a piece of land in the mountains so he could breathe the fresh air. He passed away suddenly, leaving Ada alone. The hired help ran off, and she didn’t know how to work the land, or even make her own biscuits. Until she met Ruby.

Ruby is a young woman used to having to survive. She meets Ada and they make the farm work for them. They don’t have any help, but Ruby gets Ada to contribute to the labor and they survive. They grow apples, and have chickens and trade for what they need.

Inman walks away from the Confederate hospital, and starts his journey home. He thinks about Ada and wonders if she will still have him, since he is not the same person. He has seen death before his eyes and he thinks he could never go back to a normal existence after witnessing such bloodshed. He is also injured.

He wanders and meets people on the way. He gets shot and survives; he meets a goatwoman; he saves a young woman from the Confederates, and he sees sadness wherever he goes. But wherever he ends up, most people who are friendly are willing to give him a meal. Sometimes he eats chicken.

Ms. Hen has never read a novel that had so many chickens, hens or roosters mentioned in it. There were at least twenty-three times when one of her kind was mentioned. In some places, the fowl was mentioned in a pivotal or provocative way, which Ms. Hen completely adored.

1.     The first sentence: “At the first gesture of morning flies began stirring. Inman’s eyes and the long wound at his neck drew them, and he sound of their wings and the touch of their feet were soon more potent than a yardful of roosters in rousing a man to wake.”
2.     Ada tries to get eggs from a red hen and a rooster attacks her. “Ada threw up a hand to fend him off and was cut across the wrist by a spur.” Right after that, she meets Ruby and Ruby tells her that she would get rid of the rooster like that and she twists its neck right there.
3.     When Inman meets the goatwoman she says, “Can’t tolerate living around a chicken. No spirit to a chicken at all.”
4.     Inman chases the Confederates after they leave the young woman Sara’s house, taking her hog and her three chickens. Inman manages to kill all three men, but “the remaining hen had gotten free and had its head immersed in the broken open belly of Eben the New Yorker. It pecked at the colorful flesh pulp of the exploded guts.” After Inman brought the hen back to Sara, “Inman ate the brains of the hog, parboiled and scrambled with an egg from the hen that had been eating on the raider from New York.”

This novel is not a traditional love story. There are many twists and turns and Ms. Hen didn’t know which way the story would end. Ms. Hen adored this novel because it was poignant and devastating, and she would love to give it more than five feathers up if she had more than five feathers. Five feathers and both clawed feet, she says! People who like to dive into a novel and swim in its depths would love this.

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