Ron Rash is a master of the short story, but a reader’s conclusion on In the Valley will depend on the title story, a novella set in the world of and featuring the title character from Serena that takes up half the volume.
I am not the target audience, to the extent it is possible for me to not be the target audience for a Rash work. Serena remains my least favorite Rash novel, and any attempt at another story featuring Serena is handicapped by the novel telling the end of her story. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by In the Valley, and it is well accompanied by the preceding stories.
In the Valley sees Serena returning from Brazil to her final North Carolina holding. A contract says the equipment will be ready (and loaded!) by a seemingly insurmountable deadline. And there is other unfinished business with George Pemberton’s bastard son.
Rash wisely uses the deadline to get the last of the timber cleared from the ridgeline to create drama and executes ably. I also like that Galloway’s mother plays a significant role. One of the things I liked about Serena is that it is the rare Rash tale with a clear supernatural element. The other thing Rash did I really like is to intersperse chapters with short descriptions of the animals fleeing the destruction of the clear cut.
All of the stories in this volume, I believe, are set in the mountains of North Carolina, Rash’s most common setting. The time frames range from the close of the Civil War to the present, again in keeping with Rash’s prior work. The standout works are L’homme Blessé, about a young college professor still trying to process his wife’s death, and The Belt, about a Civil War veteran trying to squeeze one last bit of luck out of his lucky belt buckle as the river rises (a common Rash motif).
Table of Contents
When All the Stars Fall from the Sky
Sad Man in the Sky
Last Bridge Burned
In the Valley (novella)
4 of 5 Stars.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary, advance copy of In the Valley from the publisher.