Walking to Gatlinburg: Book summary and reviews of Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher

Walking to Gatlinburg

A Novel

by Howard Frank Mosher

Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2010
    352 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

A stunning and lyrical Civil War thriller, Walking to Gatlinburg is a spellbinding story of survival, wilderness adventure, mystery, and love in the time of war.

Morgan Kinneson is both hunter and hunted.  The sharp-shooting 17-year-old from Kingdom County, Vermont, is determined to track down his brother Pilgrim, a doctor who has gone missing from the Union Army.  But first Morgan must elude a group of murderous escaped convicts in pursuit of a mysterious stone that has fallen into his possession.

It's 1864, and the country is in the grip of the bloodiest war in American history.  Meanwhile, the Kinneson family has been quietly conducting passengers on the Underground Railroad from Vermont to the Canadian border.  One snowy afternoon Morgan leaves an elderly fugitive named Jesse Moses in a mountainside cabin for a few hours so that he can track a moose to feed his family.  In his absence, Jesse is murdered, and thus begins Morgan's unforgettable trek south through an apocalyptic landscape of war and mayhem.

Along the way, Morgan encounters a fantastical array of characters, including a weeping elephant, a pacifist gunsmith, a woman who lives in a tree, a blind cobbler, and a beautiful and intriguing slave girl named Slidell who is the key to unlocking the mystery of the secret stone.  At the same time, he wrestles with the choices that will ultimately define him – how to reconcile the laws of nature with religious faith, how to temper justice with mercy.  Magical and wonderfully strange, Walking to Gatlinburg is both a thriller of the highest order and a heartbreaking odyssey into the heart of American darkness.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The story of Morgan's rite-of-passage through an American arcadia despoiled by war and slavery is an engrossing tale with mass appeal." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel." – Kirkus Reviews

"[A] haunting and hallucinatory novel....Historical realism this isn’t but it is a violent, often puzzling picaresque with an invigorating take on the Underground Railroad and an unsettling vision of an America despoiled by the War between the States." - Booklist

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Reader Reviews

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Barb Harding

Puzzling
I found Walking to Gatlinburg both puzzling and exciting. I did not know whether to go back and read Pilgrim's Progress, which I still may do, or to consider the book's soul of darkness in the light of Heart of Darkness. I decided the subject best lent itself to the darkness of the war, cruelty, revenge, feuding, etc. Although Morgan is searching for Pilgrim his brother, the true pilgrimage is made by Morgan, who manages to do what must be done, something which Pilgrim could not do because of his Quaker beliefs. He leaves all the characters in the proper or wished for place.

I liked it because it is certainly unlike anything I have read in some time. It has many unreal incidents and characters. It travels from east to south through many dangerous areas and situations. Morgan comes through mostly unscathed and ends well in an epilogue. He is a wonderful character.

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Author Information

Howard Frank Mosher Author Biography

Photo: Linda Ramsdell

Howard Frank Mosher was the author of eleven novels and two memoirs. He was honored with the New England Independent Booksellers Association's President's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and was the recipient of the Literature Award bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel A Stranger in the Kingdom won the New England Book Award for fiction and was later made into a movie, as were his novels Disappearances and Where the Rivers Flow North.

He died aged 74 in January 2017.

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