My Father Like a River includes two short stories: the title story and the longer The Trusty. The Trusty was also published in Rash’s short story collection Nothing Gold Can Stay. It’s as good now as it was when I read Nothing Gold Can Stay, but I’m disappointed to see a story I already own and have read. As is usually the case with Rash, both stories take place in the mountains of NC.Continue reading “Country Noir: My Father Like a River by Ron Rash”
It has been a cruel eight months of waiting, but our long national nightmare is finally over—episode two of the Whiskey and Book Club is up at YouTube. Joining me for the second episode of the Whiskey and Book Club is the indefatigable Jim Cornelius from Frontier Partisans. In addition to his long running Frontier Partisans blog, Jim has recently launched a Frontier Partisans podcast. His first, four-part series focuses on Kit Carson.
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.
Between transitioning at work and taking care of a toddler most of the day, and the stress of watching COVID-19 chew through America, I don’t have a lot of time and energy for reading and less for writing blog posts. The solution? Avoiding the hard work of writing by recording a YouTube video instead, something that only requires talking and drinking (although the latter is not, as I understand it, strictly required).
Burning Bright is another collection of short stories set in and around rural Western North Carolina by the master, Ron Rash. I think I would rank it third among the collections I’ve read, behind Chemistry and Other Stories and then Nothing Gold Can Stay, but that’s sainting with faint criticism. There is nothing quite so good as Blackberries in June or Speckled Trout, but there also isn’t a truly weak story.
Where do you tell someone to start with one of your favorite authors?
The dilemma is real. There is a lot of pressure on you. What if you screw up and recommend the wrong book and they never read your beloved author again? And Ron Rash is definitely one of my favorite authors. And one dear to my heart because he writes—and writes extraordinarily well—about the mountains of North Carolina where I grew up. Danger notwithstanding, the recommendations must be made. But I’ll give a few options.
Like any self-respecting blogger, I have a TBR pile the size of a small mountain. According to Goodreads, I have 415 books across my to-read shelves. And those are only books that I own. Add the books I want to read that I don’t own, and the books I want to reread (I just cracked Friday Night Lights back open for a reread), and, yeah, small mountain. So for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday I really needed to whittle my list down somehow. I am, then, sticking to country noir.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl.
Ron Rash writes about my native soil—western North Carolina—and Lord does he write them well. The Tuckasegee winds through my memories of college like it winds through Cullowhee (Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes). I grew up hearing stories about a kid from Shelby that was better than Michael Jordan ever was and threw it all away for drugs (Overtime). Where I grew up, you knew the drug dealers, and you knew their daddies (Deep Gap).
The final question of Blackberries in June has kept me up late at nights. Chemistry, Last Rite, and Cold Harbor all address the (emotional) pain of death from a different perspective. Chemistry, Last Rite, and Blackberries in June are powerful looks at family. Not Waving But Drowning and Deep Gap expose the awfulness of that which you care most about slowly drifting form your grasp. Blackberries in June, Overtime, The Projectionist’s Wife, and Deep Gap show a deep bitterness that runs through a downtrodden people. Honesty and Pemberton’s wife offer a window into the hatred and contempt with which outsiders view highlanders. Speckled Trout cuts deep.
One Foot in Eden is the story of a single, heinous murder and its ramifications on several interconnected lives. Don’t let the beginning fool you, it’s really not a traditional crime novel; it’s a simpler story. It’s less about the event than what it means to each character. It’s also very much a novel about Place—the part of the South Carolina Upstate people used to call the Dark Corner, specifically the cove flooded to create Lake Jocassee.