SerenaSerena by Ron Rash
My rating: 5/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

whenever i try to hand-sell this at work, i will usually just say, “it is like macbeth in a logging community. with a greek chorus.” which, were i on the other end of the exchange, would make me think, “i must read this book.” but it doesn’t always work. heathens.

i mean, that’s still as good a description as i can come up with, although serena gets her hands way dirtier than lady mcb. more like “out, damn river of blood.”

this is a historical piece, chronicling the rise of an uber-power couple in a 1929 logging town in north carolina. serena enters the community after her new husband has already established himself there, and has already fathered a child on a local girl. she is displeased. and when serena is displeased, people are going to get hurt.

serena is one of the most wonderfully single-mindedly ruthless characters i have ever read. she knows her way around a logging operation better than her husband, she hunts and rides better than any of the men she and her husband oversee, and she has a freaking falcon. (i don’t have my book with me right now, but i am pretty sure it is a falcon. it is some kind of bird that hangs out with its master and is completely badass.)

when she discovers that she is unable to bear a child herself, she sets out to destroy the one her husband has already fathered. and the girl. and the girl’s father. and anyone else who has anything to say about it.

ron rash is an amazing man for description. he knows these logging towns, he knows the woods and the men who work there. there is so much life in this story, and most of it; the people and the trees they are felling, is the last gasp of this life. all is destruction.

i know i have said this in a another review somewhere, but what heightens the impact of this book is not only the danger of serena (and her husband ain’t no pleasant master, either) but the danger of nature itself. like in my beloved descent, where the caves are just as dangerous as any subterranean monsters, cutting down gigantic trees is also extremely dangerous. many men will die, through natural accident or manipulation by the most ambitious couple in literature.

this is a glorious book, and needs to be read by all. except elizabeth. it has too much animal-death for her. it is a deadly operation, after all.

a quick note about how saddened i am that the movie that was in the works with darren arnofsky and angelina jolie got canceled. the word is now that there will still be a movie by susanne bier starring bradley cooper and jennifer lawrence, which is fine, but this character just screams jolie to me.

old stupid review:

this book has so damn much in it: the murderous machinations of the macbeths, the steinbeckian/old testament themes of justice and revenge, the casual murders nature can wreak that are cormac mccarthy cowboyish… and a greek chorus of sorts. i have name-dropped!! i have loved appalachia! i have finished my paper!

read my reviews on goodreads

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