I'm pretty sure I found this book some time last year. I remember seeing the movie when it came out, which must be well in excess of 10 years ago, and thought I'd read the book.
by Charles Frazier
This is the story of Ada Munroe, who was raised as a well-to-do, well educated girl by her preacher father in Charleston, SC; they subsequently moved to Cold Mountain, in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, where he bought a farm and hired a couple to run the farm for him while he ran the church in town.
It is also the story of Inman, native to Cold Mountain, a soldier in the War. The story starts in 1864, with Inman recovering from a severe neck wound in a hospital in Virginia. When the man in the bed next to Inman died, Inman decided to leave before he could be sent back to active status. His story follows his journey through Virginia and North Carolina and the people he encountered, from the Union and Confederate soldiers who try to capture deserters, to those who help him.
Ada's father died before the book began, leaving her alone to try to survive. Ada was pretty much helpless, because the Indian couple who had been running the farm had left to avoid any problems with the Confederates. Ada was very book-smart, but completely incapable of doing anything for herself; she also lacked much social skill. It was very fortunate for her that a girl named Ruby was sent to Ada's farm one day by a kindly neighbor; in return for being given a cabin on the farm, Ruby would work with Ada to run the farm, starting with selling off the piano to buy some livestock.
The book's chapters alternate between Inman's and Ada's stories, including flashbacks to earlier occurrences, including the first time they met. It has the feel of a family narrative, especially because the dialogue is not punctuated by quotation marks, but simply indicated by a dash before the statement (which was very off-putting to me at first, but became somewhat endearing). This was a rather bittersweet story, and I was sorry when it ended. 5/5
(For the record, I don't really remember the movie, so I can't offer comparison.)