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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  463 ratings  ·  87 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...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 25th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
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Rebecca Brothers
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
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...more
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
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.
Mar 20, 2008 Chloe rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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...more
Kitty Tomlinson
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.
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
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
Jo Ann Hall
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
James Seawel
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
Cindy Feigert
I bought this book when I visited the Smokey Mountains in December, I've been trying to read books from different places I visit to learn more about our country. This wan't a traditional novel, with a beginning,middle and end but more like glimpses into the lives of the people who settled Cataloochee. The more I read it the better I liked it. So glad I picked this one up!
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
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
although this didnt read like a traditional novel i really did like it. it was more like short stories about these mountain people, their everyday lives and how their lives changed with the passing of time. when we enjoy our state parks we need to remember the families who were sacrificed for our pleasure.
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
Beth Withers
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
Jerry Landry
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
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
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...more
Stephen D'Agostino
Some of the worst, stilted dialog I've ever read.
Paula Mccallum
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
Jade Cress
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
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
From the inside cover: Wayne Caldwell brings to life the community's historic struggles and close kinships over a span of six decades. Full of humor, darkness, beauty, and wisdom. Cataloochee is a debut novel for Mr. Caldwell, and I really enjoyed this slice of southern Americana told in the classic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner.

I'm always looking for books set in this genre, and thoroughly enjoyed this author. I hope he writes many more books like this one.
Cataloochee starts out mighty slow--not much action nor intereting plot. During this time you get to know the country and the characters. The book covers four generations so the years move along very quickly. The plot really doesn't happen until about 3/4 of the way in with a family murder and the beginnings of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The murder is resolved but what happened when the Park really began to become established could be the basis for a sequel.
This local history novel paints a living picture of the western NC mountains in the 19th century. Those people worked hard isolated lives in a sublimely beautiful land. The book reminded me of a Bruegal painting - a birds eye view of many characters and scenes, not necessarily connected in a linear way. It was hard to keep track of the generations and who was married to who (even though there was a family tree at the beginning). Once I stopped trying, I enjoyed it.
Eddie Taylor
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Growing up in the appalachian mountains of western North Carolina I could really relate to the people and the story. This book and the stories reminded me of my summers I spent growing up with my Grandmother and Great Grandmother and listening to them talk about growing up in the mountains. So enjoyed this story and the characters that the author brought to life. I will read this book again at some point in my life.
Tonya James
I absolutely loved this book. Caldwell is one of my favorite authors. I had a question about one of his characters, emailed him and he contacted me back immediately. I will re-read his books again and look forward to his next one.
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