Take one dead sister, her two surviving mute, wild children, a reluctant and newly anointed stepmother, and put them in Appalachia. Add some danger and darkness to spice, and you have Charles Frazier’s third novel, Nightwoods. It is the entwined stories of Luce, her murdered sister, Lily, and Lily’s two feral children. Frazier is, of course, famous for his 1997 National Book Award–winning Cold Mountain and resultant 2003 movie and, perhaps less so, for his second book, Thirteen Moons. In Nightwoods surviving sister Luce has grudgingly become all to Lily’s two children, although Luce “was not much maternal.” Her “new stranger children” are “small, beautiful and violent.” The name “Luce” calls to mind lucency and a certain lightness or clearness, which, if Luce actually possesses these qualities, is buried in a no-nonsense, practical knowledge of the world. This worldview evolves with her increasingly empathic approach to the two increasingly humanized children. Both Lily (evoking a kind of innocent whiteness) and Luce have been victimized and are set against the backdrop of men who violated them. Frazier provides us with numerous allegorical images of fire and light: the children are obsessed with fire, and Luce’s father’s name is “Lit.” Darkness and light are balanced leitmotifs in the book. Dark forest, and darker motives, play against the sanctuary light of the lodge where Luce and the children reside.