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3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  808 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
“A brilliant portrait of a community and a way of life long gone, a lost America.”
–Charles Frazier

Against the breathtaking backdrop of Appalachia comes a rich, multilayered post—Civil War saga of three generations of families–their dreams, their downfalls, and their faith. Cataloochee is a slice of southern Americana told in the classic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and W
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 25th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
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Rebecca Brothers
Jun 22, 2011 Rebecca Brothers rated it it was amazing
How many times as a kid did I ride from Lexington, KY on a Friday night with my family down I-75 to the misty and dangerous JELLICO MOUNTAIN as the sun set to our right, then hang a sharp left at Knoxville and slide in Gatlinburg in all its cheesy, wondrous mountain glory? A million or more, it seems, and I still revel in bi-yearly treks to the strip (where I could eat myself silly at the Pancake Pantry). We usually stay in a cabin just out of town and sit in the hot tub sipping daiquiris and lo ...more
I'm always interested in seeing how the Blue Ridge/Smokey Mountain area is depicted in novels. I felt Cataloochee was pretty faithful to the spirit, attitudes and lives of the people who lived in that area. The period covered is much too ambitious for a book this size, and it suffers because of that. I believe Mr. Caldwell would have done better to make this a 2-3 book series since he covered over 100 years. Many times it felt like we were on fast forward through people's lives, until he got to ...more
Mar 15, 2011 Sandra rated it really liked it
Once I made my peace with the fact that this is not a novel with a plot and an overarching story line, I began to enjoy it for what it is, a series of connected vignettes about a group of families living in the Cataloochee, an area of the North Carolina mountains near Asheville, between the 1850s and the early 1900s. Because there was no plot to pull me forward, I was often tempted to stop after a particularly full and satisfying story.

I’m glad I continued reading. This is living history. Catalo
Eric Hoefler
I only made it halfway through this novel. The writing was clear and the dialect was charming, but this was closer to a collection of character sketches than a novel. As many reviews indicate, this is mostly a portrait of the community, but even if that's the goal, the reader still needs characters to lock into and follow through the narrative. From what I know of the plot, a stronger narrative hook (the relationship between Ezra and Zeb) was available, but not developed tightly enough to carry ...more
Mar 03, 2013 Karen rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
The author provided great detail regarding tasks of mountain life (e.g. how to install a deadbolt in a new door) but almost no character development. I read 80 pages of this book and had to constantly refer back to the family tree to identify the characters as they did not have enough innate individuality to allow a reader to distinguish among them.
Susan Emmet
Apr 28, 2015 Susan Emmet rated it it was amazing
I know the 5 comes from my love of this part of NC, outside Asheville, in the Smokies and the Blue Ridge.
The stories of the Banks, Carter and Wright families rings true for me.
My parents lived in Asheville for over thirty years and my father took us into the Smokies and all over the Blue Ridge, often driving blue highways and dirt roads. There remained many who made a life off tobacco, corn, apples and moonshine on two- or three- acre plots, always along a creek. They sold their produce along th
Dec 06, 2008 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: appalachia
Some nice insight into what life was like in an isolated Appalachian community in the late 19th/early 20th century.

This book seemed to be searching for some sort of focus--it covers a long time span, and there are many characters. The parts I enjoyed the most was when it slowed down, and dove into a story. Unfortunately there are some chapters where one paragraph would be about a character who jumped in age twenty years from we saw them last. It would say just a little more than "They got marri
Mar 20, 2008 Chloe rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who read Cold Mountain
Recommended to Chloe by: the library shelf
I checked this out from the library because I was intrigued by the title. Cataloochee is not far from my home town, and the author's name (Caldwell) was a giveaway that he was familiar with North Carolina history. This is an extremely well written collection of vignettes that spans four generations in the Cataloochee community, beginning in the mid-1850's. The characters are well developed, and the author is able to easily jump large chunks of time without losing our attention, or the charm of h ...more
Sep 06, 2015 Annette rated it really liked it
As you vacation in the mountains and head to the Smokies or Blue Ridge, did you ever stop and think about those old barns and cabins sitting high up in mountain valleys?

Cataloochee tells the story of the Carter clan who lived in an area of North Carolina for four generations. They farmed, they fought the land, and they loved and died around the Catoloochee valley.

In the twenties, the Government made good on their threats, and decided their portion of paradise would become a portion of the Great
Dec 22, 2014 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Cataloochee by Wayne Caldwell gives you a look into the way people lived, struggled, loved, hated, and survived during a time period between the 1860s and early 1900s. The story is set in the mountain communities near Asheville, NC, a very well written novel with believable characters and storyline, I recommend this novel to anyone interested in the way life was before the park service came and relocated too many people to count, or to anyone wanting a feeling of being taken back to a simpler ti ...more
Jerry Landry
Aug 16, 2012 Jerry Landry rated it it was amazing
I’ve been waiting for a bit to read Wayne Caldwell’s Cataloochee, and I'm glad that it finally found its way off of my to-read list and into my hands. It’s a generational story set in the Great Smoky Mountains between the Civil War and World War II. The flow of the story is enthralling. I would describe it like skipping a stone along a winding mountain stream. You never know where in the stream the next chapter’s going to fall, but then the pace is very mellow and slow until the next jump. The c ...more
Kitty Tomlinson
Dec 29, 2008 Kitty Tomlinson rated it it was amazing
Appalachian community from Civil War through formation of Great Smokey National Park. Carter and Wright families and Ezra Banks live their lives in the shadows of the mountains. Awesome read.
Marie Carmean
Feb 28, 2017 Marie Carmean rated it really liked it
I waver between three and four stars with this one. I did really like this book, a tale about the lives of three families, the Wrights, Carters and Banks in deep North Carolina Appalachia at the end of the nineteenth and after the turn of the 20th century. What was somewhat difficult was the number of characters, all interwoven family members, that span over such a long period of time. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of them. I felt like the span of time was too great, and the people too man ...more
Mar 05, 2015 TerryJane rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed catching a glimpse into the lives of these hard-working mountain families. I particularly enjoyed the vernacular, as it lent such an authentic feeling to the work. I felt as if I'd stepped back in time to visit a time and place and lifestyle of simple farming folks similar to my own people who settled southwest of Cataloochee in Jackson county.

I had a tough time getting into this book, as I was expecting a more continuous storyline. I was initially put off by the large number of
Barbara M
Jan 31, 2016 Barbara M rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Cataloochee very much. It is hard to keep the characters and their relationships straight. I referred to the family tree in the front of the book often. Of course, in a small town, keeping family relationships straight (for an outsider) is always a challenge! I lived in a smallish town in Massachusetts and it always seemed that I found out that someone I'd met was some kind of cousin or sibling or had married into the family of someone else I knew. The mountain people in this story wer ...more
Jul 09, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
dont have much time but I am almost done with this and it is absolutely an incredible read and paints itself like a picture of a time, place, and people that no longer can be found...I will finish review when i finish the book! Okay done now. This was a great book filled with a vast array of characters that all stemmed from the same person on a turn late 19th-early 20th century family. The book was rich with Appalachian folklore and history which I enjoyed thoroughly because I was going thru a 1 ...more
Dec 29, 2010 Brittany rated it liked it
I love, love, love historical fiction. Story lines rooted in true events that often resurrect little-known facts about real people or places ... I get tingly just thinking about it! One reader said Cataloochee is like reading a memory, and I concur with this assessment. Wayne Caldwell does an excellent job painting the town of Cataloochee with colorful stories about the people who live there. This novel is more like a compilation of short stories that Caldwell tried to string together with a com ...more
James Seawel
Dec 29, 2011 James Seawel rated it liked it
The author did a good job of preserving some of the culture and mores of the early Appalachian settlers. I kind of just fell out of the mood for this book as I felt it was slow-paced and a tad mild for my taste, but that's not a jab at the author. I think he portrayed what he set out to portray. It probably says more about me than him that I was all too ready to put this one down in search of some murder and mystery and scandal in more contemporary Southern fiction (i.e. James Lee Burke and Tom ...more
Jo Ann Hall
Jun 25, 2010 Jo Ann Hall rated it really liked it
This near-epic story of the Carter and Wright families and their struggles to survive in their isolated little North Carolina settlement is my favorite kind of tale. Set within the years following the Civil War up until the 1920s, the story echoes the changes occurring in the larger world, but with an impact softened by the characters' isolation from city life and, frequently, money and the law. Wayne Caldwell does a great job of illuminating the basic wisdom of this large cast of characters des ...more
Jun 14, 2007 Ever rated it liked it
Exquisitely written up until the last few chapters. I had imagined the 'tragedy' described in the book jacket to be the formation of the national park, when all those people we spent the entire book getting attached to were suddenly booted out, but instead the story makes a turn for the sensational, which did little to strengthen the climax of the book. Had those last chapters come first, I probably wouldn't have finished the book at all, but I can't emphasize enough how beautifully written the ...more
Nov 05, 2010 Thuraya rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-books
Cataloochee is a comprehensive, albeit dry, portrait of a time, place, and family dynamic long forgotten. Set against the mountains of North Carolina - an area which we now know as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park - Wayne Caldwell’s debut novel does have its strengths. Its charming, humorous, and sometimes down-right mean cast of characters are well-developed and not without their tender moments of love and loss. But the novel may have benefitted from being structured as a series of vignet ...more
Aug 29, 2016 P rated it really liked it
Beautifully written prose piece. I have been on a short jag of period fiction about western North Carolina...not by design...but I have not been disappointed in any of them. The period is primarily late 19th century. This particular book follows an extended family rather than one person. The upshot is that although I thought it was going to be a focused novel of one man's life, it's more a slice of life of the times so that it doesn't really have a plot that begins and ends. It's as if someone j ...more
Nov 06, 2010 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i like caldwell's writing style. he makes characters and settings come alive quickly. however, this is not a novel. it's a series of vignettes. if i had realized that going in, maybe i would have enjoyed the experience more, but i didn't, so i kept looking for connections between the chapters. aside from a few repeating characters, there weren't many connections. the final chapters did tie together into a coherent subplot, but since that hadn't happened throughout the rest of the book, it just t ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Kendra rated it really liked it
This book did a wonderful job to bring to life the history of an area that is very dear to me. I enjoyed the flow through the years to capture the evolution of the culture and how the people were so intertwined with the valley itself, even with big changes on the horizon. The writing was lyrical and appropriately quirky to communicate character dynamics. My main criticisms are how many characters the plot followed, and how chapters seemed to jump around at times as well as the momentum of the no ...more
I thought this was a marvelous first novel and wonder if the author will do as well on his second. Life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the Appalachian Mountains is painted very believably. Caldwell never stops to pat himself on the back regarding his research and without such interruptions you may miss some of the idioms or customs which are integral to the lives of his families. (Some authors seem to need to step back and insert " they did in those days.." or "..a hab ...more
George Schlukbier
A unique voice to the North Carolina writers that begins to tell the story of "Landscape as destiny." There is a good literaty tradition being built here in North Carolina, writers like Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain, Wayne Caldwell, Cataloochee and Ron Rash, Saints at the River. I hope these writers receive the notice and acclaim they deserve.
The unique voices of North Carolina writers are so very differn't than the Southern writers because of their inspirational appreciation of this place. Lan
Beth Withers
May 20, 2011 Beth Withers rated it really liked it
I've had this book awhile, one I purchased on a trip to Highlands, NC. It's a decent read. I know people very much like the characters in this book, my heart is always in the mountains, and I married into a proud mountain family from West Virginia, so in many ways, reading this book was like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers. It is not action-packed or full of suspense, just the lives of proud mountain families over a period of about 60 years, right before the Great Smokey Mountains Nat ...more
Jade Cress
Jan 22, 2013 Jade Cress rated it really liked it
this is the story of rural life in WNC. in particular, a remote valley called Cataloochee. I found it very good read, even though I did feel bad for all the families that got displaced when the National Park moved in. I thought this book was very entertaining, partly because I am very familiar with the settings and the Cataloochee valley. a part of me longs for a simple life like these people had. I know it wasn't and easy life (as many challenges were described in the book) but it was simple. n ...more
Mar 13, 2008 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-south, appalachia
In addition to really subtle uses of gesture and speech to craft (rather than straight narrative to describe) characters, my favorite aspect of Cataloochee was its depiction of the creation of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the people who were displaced by it. Often dismissed as backwards hillbillies, here they are stubborn but mostly dignified folks with a stake in the land that goes back generations. Although as a visitor and environmentalist I really appreciate the park's existence to ...more
Paula Mccallum
Jul 03, 2013 Paula Mccallum rated it it was amazing
Contains some SPOILERS! A lot of characters to keep straight, but it's a great piece of history. I've been to Cataloochee & seen what's left of some of the buildings. Note: read Requiem by Fire immediately following, so the characters are fresh in your mind & so you know what happens. SOILER ALERT!!! Visit Cataloochee/great Smokey Mtns Natl Park in the fall when you can see the newly re-established elk herd during the rutting season. They're amazing! Stop in Waynesville, which you'll hea ...more
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