New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Ron Rash is "a storyteller of the highest rank" (Jeffrey Lent) and has won comparisons to John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, and Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez. It is rare that an author can capture the complexities of a place as though it were a person, and rarer still that one can reveal a land as dichotomous and fractious as Appalachia--a muse; a siren; a rugged, brutal landscape of exceptional beauty, promise, and suffering--with the honesty and precision of a photograph. "If you haven't heard of the Southern writer Ron Rash, it is time you should" (The Plain Dealer).
In Burning Bright, the stories span the years from the Civil War to the present day, and Rash's historical and modern settings are sewn together in a hauntingly beautiful patchwork of suspense and myth, populated by raw and unforgettable characters mined from the landscape of Appalachia. In "Back of Beyond," a pawnshop owner who profits from the stolen goods of local meth addicts--including his own nephew--comes to the aid of his brother and sister-in-law when they are threatened by their son. The pregnant wife of a Lincoln sympathizer alone in Confederate territory takes revenge to protect her family in "Lincolnites." And in the title story, a woman from a small town marries an outsider; when an unknown arsonist starts fires in the Smoky Mountains, her husband becomes the key suspect.
In these stories, Rash brings to light a previously unexplored territory, hidden in plain sight--first a landscape, and then the dark yet lyrical heart and the alluringly melancholy soul of his characters and their home.
The latest from Rash (Serena), a collection, begins with "Hard Times," in which a struggling farmer in the midst of the Great Depression tries to discover who's stealing eggs from his henhouse without offending the volatile pride of his impoverished neighbors. The present-day stories are also situated in poverty-plagued small towns whose young citizens are being lost to meth addictions: in "Back of Beyond," a pawnshop owner has to intervene when he learns his nephew Danny has kicked his parents out of their house and sold off their furniture to support his habit; in "The Ascent," a young boy lovingly tends to a couple of corpses--victims of a small plane crash. Rash's stories are calm, dark and overtly symbolic, sometimes so literal they verge on redundant: in "Dead Confederates," when a man falls into the Confederate tomb he's looting, the graveyard caretaker notes: "I'd say he's helped dig his own grave." With a mastery of dialogue, Rash has written a tribute and a pre-emptive eulogy for the hardworking, straight-talking farmers of the Appalachian Mountains. (Mar.)
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March 08, 2010
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