Ron Rash’s new novel is a mysterious story of forbidden love in which much of the story is told from a teen girl’s point of view. Rash once again showcases his beautiful writing and a North Carolinian, Appalachian mountain setting, earning an AB4T starred review.
Rash is best known for Serena (Ecco, 2008), which was a PEN/Faulkner finalist. But a couple years before Serena came The World Made Straight (Henry Holt), a 2007 Alex Award winner. The YALSA annotation reads, “When 17-year-old Travis Shelton discovers a marijuana farm in the Appalachian woods, he begins a confrontation with the subtle evils within his rural world.” The World Made Straight is a really interesting combination of coming-of-age, crime thriller and historical fiction. What this annotation doesn’t mention are the novel’s flashbacks to the journals of a Dr. Candler, who witnessed another horrific confrontation in the same county during the Civil War.
If you ever have a chance to hear Ron Rash read his work, grab it. He has a knack for choosing wonderful passages to read, he has a beautiful speaking voice, and overall it is a mesmerizing experience. No exaggeration!
Adult/High School–The cove is tucked deep in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, a place where even the sun is reluctant to venture. But it’s all that’s left to Hank and his sister, Laurel. He has returned from fighting in World War I missing one hand, but determined to make a decent farm from their scrappy land. Laurel, however, is restless to experience more of the world. Superstition in the nearest town, Mars Hill, has it that her deep-blue birthmark labels her a witch, which brings even deeper loneliness to the young woman. Magically, a young man is found in the woods, a musician named Walter who cannot speak but plays enchanting music on his flute. The suspense ratchets up as Laurel falls in love with the stranger. Readers know that he has a secret past, and yet it’s impossible not to root for her and her innocent hopes for love. Rash uses language as untamed and beautiful as the land itself. Laurel imagines that her feelings for Walter were, “…nothing more than a figment her loneliness had fleshed out from a cross of wood and tattered cloth.” Like a thunderstorm ever darkening the horizon, heartache and violence seem sure to come. As in Serena (Ecco, 2008), Rash casts an ominous yet mesmerizing spell over his audience. Teens who cannot get enough of Cormac McCarthy’s atmospheric novels, or love Charles Frazier’s adventures set in the mountains of North Carolina, will be sure to add Ron Rash to their list of favorite authors.–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FL