This is a very sad book. Set during the American civil war, Cold Mountain follows the story of Inman, a Confederate deserter trying to get home, and Ada, a woman with no idea how to survive on her farm.
I personally found the sections about Inman to be on the less interesting side. It does get a bit more interesting once he starts running into the Home Guard, who are on the lookout for deserters. I suspect that says more about me than about Frazier's skill as an author. I much preferred the chapters that dealt with Ada's struggles, particularly after the introduction of Ruby. I adore the character of Ruby. I can relate most easily to the abstract academic life of Ada. Ruby, on the other hand, is earthy, superstitious and entirely focused on survival. The contrast between the two of them is fantastic.
Personally, I could have done without the semi-happy ending of the epilogue. I think ending with Inman dying in Ada's arms would have been perfectly appropriate, if rather depressing.