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The Cove by Ron Rash

The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war

Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.

Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel’s heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.

But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.

This lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as its award-winning predecessor Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.

“Lonely young woman meets mysterious stranger. What might have been trite and formulaic is anything but in Rash’s fifth novel, a dark tale of Appalachian superstition and jingoism so good it gives you chills… Even better than the bestselling Serena (2008), for here Rash has elevated melodrama to tragedy.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“I wish the whole world spoke the way Ron Rash’s characters do. Read him for his poetry and great humanity. Just read him.” (Jennifer Haigh, author of Faith )

“Ron Rash is a writer of both the darkly beautiful and the sadly true; his new novel, The Cove, solidifies his reputation as one of our very finest novelists.” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls )

“Set during World War One, The Cove is a novel that speaks intimately to today’s politics. Beautifully written, tough, raw, uncompromising, entirely new. Ron Rash is a writer’s writer who writes for others.” (Colum McCann )

“Rash develops his story masterfully; the large cast of characters is superbly realized, as is the xenophobia that accompanies the war, and Rash brings the various narrative threads together at the conclusion of the novel with formidable strength and pathos.” (Library Journal (starred review)

“Ron Rash uses language with such apparently effortless skill that it is as though he found words in his barn as a child and has been training them to fit his needs ever since….Rash throws a big shadow now and it’s only going to get bigger and soon.” (Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone)

“Rash effortlessly summons the rugged Appalachian landscape as well as the small-mindedness and xenophobia of a country in the grip of patriotic fervor, drawing striking parallels to the heated political rhetoric of today. A powerful novel that skillfully overlays its tragic love story with pointed social commentary.” (Booklist (starred review)

“The gripping plot, gothic atmosphere, and striking descriptions, in particular of the dismal cove, make this a top-notch story of an unusual place and its fated and fearful denizens.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review), Pick of the Week )

My Review

This was a wonderful historical story and Ron Rash is a writer to add alongside great southern gothic styled writers. Just as many have mentioned Ron Rash strikes up feelings of being present with great writers such as Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.
This story leaves a mark with characters that are lonely and modest, rich in kindness and deeply warm to others even though they face inequalities due to race, heritage and have been marked in a superstitious ways as cursed. A brother and a sister are two main characters that at times bring a tear in your eye for the happiest and the saddest of times they face in this WW1 period story. The authors successfully places you in the atmosphere of that era and especially the Cove. The story flowed in an eloquent pace, hard times and romantic occasions really a throwback to the storytelling of Charles Dickens. This was my first reading from Ron Rash and won’t be the last I felt in the hands of a great storyteller, at one point i was reminiscing on an equally great story Great Expectations as you do want great things to happen to Laurel Shelton and her guest that she becomes attached to. That guest is equally lost for words and cannot communicate by tongue but touched others hearts with tunes from a flute and gathers attention like the pied piper of Hamlin. Attention is what he does not need, as the man who struck up from nowhere and finds a lady to warm his heart soon faces harder times, and those around him go through their worst and happiest of times. A story to remember with an exceptional quality of writing historical, very romantic with a overshadowing melancholy presence from beginning to end.

Purchase from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Gary Carden interviews Ron Rash (video): https://more2read.com/gary-carden-interviews-ron-rash-video/

Ron Rash reads from Serena https://more2read.com/ron-rash-reads-from-serena/

Ron Rash Interview by Stacey Cochran https://more2read.com/ron-rash-author-video/

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 01 April 2012

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