Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller Serena and Above the Waterfall, in addition to four prizewinning novels, including The Cove, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; four collections of poems; and six collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O. Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.
This is a violent story about ambition, privilege, and ruthlessness played out in an Appalachian timber camp in North Carolina during the Depression. The novel opens with the camp's wealthy owner, George Pemberton, returning from Boston with his new bride, Serena. He is met on a train platform by his business partners--and by camp kitchen worker Rachel, who is carrying his child (and meeting the train with her angry father). When George leaves the platform, Rachel's father is dead, and Rachel herself has been spurned and humiliated. The novel is richly detailed, and many of the characters are skillfully drawn by Rash (The World Made Straight). Unfortunately, though, the Pembertons--who are rapacious and monstrously self-absorbed--often seem one-dimensional and implausible. Serena is particularly hard to believe at times. Still, parts of the novel are superb, particularly the final section when Serena turns violently against Rachel and her son. The Pembertons create a wasteland in these beautiful mountains, and Rash also renders that loss powerfully. Though flawed, this manages to be an engaging read. Recommended for libraries with large fiction collections.--Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Depression-era lumber baron George Pemberton and his callous new wife, Serena, are venality incarnate in Rash's gothic fourth novel (after The World Made Straight), set, like the other three, in Appalachia. George--who coolly kills the furious father of Rachel Harmon, the teenage girl pregnant with George's bastard son--is an imperious entrepreneur laying waste to North Carolina timberland without regard for the well-being of his workers. His evil pales beside that of Serena, however. Rash's depictions of lumber camp camaraderie (despite deadly working conditions) are a welcome respite from Serena's unrelenting thirst for blood and wealth; a subplot about government efforts to buy back swaths of privately owned land to establish national parks injects real history into this implacably grim tale of greed and corruption gone wild--and of eventual, well-deserved revenge. (Oct.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"Too hypnotic to break away from...And the final chapter is as
flawless and captivating as anything I've read this year, a
perfectly creepy shock that will leave you hearing nothing but the
wind between the stumps."--Washington Post Book World
"From that arresting opening...the violence escalates along with the tension in this absorbing story about rapacious greed in Depression-era Appalachia...Thrilling stuff."--People
"Masterfully written...The book is consistently heartbreaking in its portrayal of what humans are capable of...sprawling [and] engrossing."--San Francisco Chronicle