by Ron Rash
With an imprint of genius, Ron Rash recreates the harshness and brutality of imagination, sending our hearts into defrib, paddled back into piercing tenderness.
“This book ranks among the best backwoods fiction since 2006’s Winter’s Bone…” from Entertainment Weekly parallels my take on this novel also.
Within the dark heartland of Mars Hill, North Carolina in the Appalachians, lie deep roots of suspicion and poverty. 100 acres of land surrounded by mountain ledges that giant their way into the land, and the sun relinquishes its hold to rock and shadow. Laurel Shelton’s ancestors bought the land because it was cheaper than land in Tennessee, and it holds Lauren and her brother Hank’s small cabin, barn and one other neighbor, tough Slidell Hampton. Laurel, born with a large birthmark, is the town scapegoat, where Mars Hill farmers call her the witch. Hank has been accepted, because he came back from the war with one hand blown off. Between Laurel and Hank, who live in the cabin, there lies a tension, for Hank knows he will marry a townsgirl, while Laurel will have to manage on her own – even Hank won’t give up what small chance at life he has for his sister. Secretly, He and Slidell are fixing up the corral for the few cattle and the cabin to make it liveable for Laurel, who thinks she and Hank will eke out a living together. For when Frank and Laurel go into town on the shifty buggy, the townspeople spit and curse at Laurel, while they acknowledge Hank. All Laurel has are the dying giant chestnut trees, spotting the 100 acres like corpses, for nothing can live without light.
So starts The Cove. Rash’s atmosphere and prose push us deep into the suspicions of the townspeople who have made Outliers of the Shelton family – they are poorer and more pitiable than even the harsh living people of Mars Hill.
When a mute stranger appears one day on the only ledge that carries sun, Laurel is enchanted, for the stranger creates music from a silver flute, and in the dusk and dirt, Laurel finds the music a thing of beauty. The man is there two days later, but Laurel sees that he is in bad shape. She runs to the cabin and gets Hank, who is leery to help a stranger, but Laurel props up one side of the man, Hank the other, and they get him to the cabin. On a sheet of paper, the stranger has written his name and a sentence that he is mute.
As Laurel and Walter find love within each other, Walter’s terrible secret is discovered. And it takes Laurel and Hank with it. For the town will not allow for any differences. Slidell helps Walter get away, and the novel succumbs to The Cove.
Marvelous reading, I would compare it to Daniel Woodrell except Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell are friends, and because each man writes Appalachia like Faulkner writes Jefferson County.
The Cove: A Novel (P.S.) is available both in kindle format and paperback.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.