Ron Rash is too good to miss. If you aren’t familiar with his name, you must read a story or two, just so that you know his style, his subject. He writes about the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain section of the Appalachians and his subjects are the wide range of mostly forgotten folks who live there, out of common view. We recognize them—their needs, resentments, their motivations—instantly though we wouldn’t claim to be them.
This is a collection of thirty-two stories culled from earlier works plus two new ones at the very end, “Outlaws” and “Shiloh,” that have not been previously collected.
One of my favorite stories, “Three A.M. and the Stars are Out,” is reprinted here from an earlier collection, Nothing Gold Can Stay. It tells of a retired veterinarian who still gets calls from his old customers and he still goes to help out. His wife is dead four months and he sometimes forgets she’s not there to answer back when a newspaper article prompts his comment.
The time frame in Rash’s stories stretch from the Civil War to today. Another favorite story is the first in this collection, called “Hard Times,” about depression-era Appalachian life. A farmer with a bitter and disagreeable wife discovers eggs are missing from his Bantam’s nest and resolves to catch the culprit.
Back-country superstitions and ways brought down from olden times play a part in the lives of people. “The Corpse Bird” features an owl who brings bad tidings, and a college-educated man visits a Pentacostal church to be cured in “Chemistry.” The scourge of drug abuse features in several stories, as naturally told as though it were endemic.
Rash polishes his stories until there is not a word too many nor out of place. He has also written novels, one of which is due out as a feature film in February 2015, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, called Serena. It looks as though it is shot on location in the Appalachian range, but in fact it was shot in Prague, Czech Republic and Denmark. Though the film does not garner high marks yet, I think we’d agree it probably isn’t the actors' fault. Probably read the book first so you won’t be disappointed.
You can buy this book here: