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Review Excerpts

New Zealand Sunday Star Times - February 9, 2014
Beautifully written, utterly unforgettable, this is a portrait of a lady as the amoral chatelaine of a logging camp in the American South during the Great Depression, as well as the story of the poor guy who is utterly dazzled by her. As far as am concerned, this novel, as powerful and inexorable as a thunderstorm, is as good a piece of fiction as I have read in the last decade. It is a new classic in the category of Love gone horribly wrong.
-- Anna Quindlen

The Guardian (UK) – October 10, 2009
“[Serena] could sit comfortably on any bookshelf beside Cormac McCarthy or Charles Frazier. [Rash] is also a poet, and brings with him the virtues of poetry – concision and linguistic grace . Serena is, by far, his most accomplished work to date. It's a spectacular book…”
-- Jay Parini

Independent (UK) - Saturday September 12 2009
"Modern-day Lady Macbeth in a stark world of intrigue
Acclaimed in the US, Appalachian writer and poet Ron Rash is unknown on this side of the Atlantic. But that is about to change... ...The book calls to mind Snow Falling on Cedars and Cold Mountain but the poet in Ron Rash and his lyrical prose elevate this novel to its 'Book of the Year' status. A great read."

Boston Globe – January 11, 2009
“Depression-era novels in particular tend to specialize in tragic heroes, long-lived villains, and a comeuppance that invariably arrives late if at all… Ron Rash combines all of these elements and many more to great and often shocking effect in his captivating new novel, Serena... ...Rash's descriptions of the land, of logging, hunting, and backwoods life are superb. His lyrical yet restrained style powerfully evokes not only the stillness and beauty of this place but also the violence, deliberate or casual, that the Pemberton juggernaut inflicts on any impediment or rival... ...The outcome, like the novel itself, is as tough as it is elegant.”

Cleveland Plain-Dealer - December 21, 2008
“If you haven't heard of the Southern writer Ron Rash, it is time you should. Rash has been writing poems, stories and novels for years, but with the release of Serena, a dark fable that mixes Southern Gothic motifs with Shakespeare's "Macbeth," he may reach the mainstream audience he long deserves… Rash writes brisk and beautiful prose. Like early Cormac McCarthy, he creates deliciously grotesque characters. His descriptions of the punishing work camp recall William Faulkner at his most rhetorical. And his similes astound… Serena is that publishing rarity: It will please readers who cherish both plot and prose.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune - December 3, 2008
“Serena Pemberton is one of the most unforgettable characters you're likely to encounter in modern fiction. [Pemberton] watches the girl, furtively compares the toddler with pictures of himself, and Serena watches him watch. And we watch her watch, turning the pages like mad. And the whole thing sweeps to its breathtaking and inevitable conclusion.”

The New Yorker – December 1, 2008
“Rash’s evocative rendering of the blighted landscape and the tough characters who inhabit it recalls both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, while the malignant character of Serena, who projects a “stark unflinching certainty” about her actions, propels his finely paced story.”

USA Today - November 20, 2008
“Love gone seriously wrong is the central theme of Serena, the latest novel from Ron Rash (One Foot in Eden). The main character, Serena Pemberton, embodies that old axiom: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Or even disappointed, as in the case of Serena, a timber baron's wife in North Carolina circa 1929…This logging soap opera has it all: sex, lies, deceit, betrayal, murder. The rugged Carolina terrain plays a key supporting role. The climatic ending embodies another saw: Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Seattle Times - November 20, 2008
”Beautifully written.”

Wisconsin State Journal - November 14, 2008
“Rash, who's authored three novels, three collections of poems and three collections of stories, weaves a complex tale of violence and beauty, at the very core of which is power, love and betrayal.”

Nashville Scene - November 12, 2008
“Serena's rise is methodical, unyielding. As Rash adds characters—the prominent local tree hugger, the loggers who view Serena with a mixture of foreboding and awe—he vividly transports us to Depression-era Appalachia, where the basics of life are hell, and Serena is the she-devil who rules over all. Part environmentalist's story, part workingman's period piece, Serena seamlessly moves to sprinting thriller by tale's end, where the villain has evolved from superwoman to a sociopath so competently wicked you're just thankful she's a product of fiction.” - November 1, 2008
“This is a must-read novel.”

Bookpage – November 1, 2008
"O. Henry Prize winner Ron Rash has produced a riveting, epic tale of greed, blood lust and revenge in Serena, his fourth novel... An impressivei work, Serena has all the markings of a career-making novel, and should firmly establish poet and novelist Rash as a literary star."
-- Kristy Kiernan

Madison County Herald (MS) - November 1, 2008
“Known for his award-winning prose and poetry and his dedication to Appalachian culture, Rash rockets his prowess miles beyond his previous three novels with Serena.”

San Francisco Chronicle – October 29, 2008
“The book is consistently heartbreaking in its portrayal of what humans are capable of…Rash's wealth of Smoky Mountain knowledge meshes seamlessly with an occasional touch of magical realism, which might have been a curious choice, but is a call-out to local superstitions. This is a story that's sprawling, engrossing and - from time to time - nightmarish. The tension builds so well that occasionally you just want whatever monstrosity is approaching to be over.”

People Magazine - October 20, 2008
“From that arresting opening…the violence escalates along with the tension in this absorbing story about rapacious greed in Depression-era Appalachia…though Rash paints Serena, an ice queen in jodhpurs, as nearly mythical, his loggers are human, laboring for little pay, often at the cost of life or limb. The story gathers momentum with a heart-racing denouement that pits merciless Serena against the kitchen girl who's borne Pemberton his only child. Thrilling stuff.”

The Missourian - October 18, 2008
“You’ll race to finish this poetic, but brutal read by the award-winning author of One Foot in Eden and Saints at the River.”

Creating Loafing (Charlotte) Review - October 14, 2008
“An American masterpiece... Blood, greed, history and hubris blend and bump together in powerful, explosive combinations in Ron Rash's new novel, Serena... Filled with Shakespearean levels of deception, cruelty and mountain-style retribution, Serena gallops to its inevitable searing conclusion, ending with a clever addendum that brings the story full circle... Rash hasn't just created a Southern masterpiece. He's produced a wonderful American novel that addresses old national themes while also speaking to current times in its portrait of modern business greed colliding with a very old land and its inhabitants. Rash has written some very fine novels before this one, and in fact, his rise in literary stature over the past few years has been a delight. Serena, though, made this reader feel as if those books had been mere training for the heavy lifting he performed for this terrific, eminently accessible novel.”
-- By John Grooms

Washington Post - October 12, 2008
“In addition to writing short stories, Rash is also a fine poet, and he brings a poet's concision and elliptical tendencies to this novel. As a result, these scenes and conversations constantly suggest more than they show, a technique that renders them alluring, sometimes erotic, often frightening… It's too hypnotic to break away from… And the final chapter is as flawless and captivating as anything I've read this year, a perfectly creepy shock that will leave you hearing nothing but the wind between the stumps.”
-- Ron Charles

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - October 12, 2008
“In Serena, author Ron Rash has created a villainess like no other --- as cool as she is ruthless. The killing of the grandfather-to-be is the first of a dozen or so she orders over the course of the novel that bears her name, a Depression-era tale that some have compared to Shakespeare's Macbeth… She is a remarkable creation.”
-- Soyia Ellison

Charlotte Observer - October 12, 2008
“A powerful tale, well told, “Serena” is enriched by Rash's artful use of language. With just the right turn of phrase, dead-on details and subtle use of symbol, he delivers a story that will remain with readers long after the final page.”
-- Nancy Posey

Citizen Times (Ashville, NC) - October 12, 2008
“Though you can catch the drifts of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Cormac McCarthy and even Thomas Harris in Serena, there are also opportunities to savor elements that are pure Appalachian and pure Ron Rash. Dark fatalism is part of Rash's mountain inheritance, he says.”
-- Rob Neufeld

Nashville Scene - October 9, 2008
” Fans of William Gay and Silas House should make Ron Rash's Serena a priority on their fall reading list… Like Gay, Rash has a knack for narrative pacing; like House, he has a keen sense of the social inequities and often-barbaric life in the southern Appalachians. Men desperate for work camp ‘in the stumps and slash, waiting days for a maimed or killed worker to be brought from the woods in hopes of being his replacement.’ But that's nothing to the savagery of Pemberton and Serena.”
-- Clay Risen

New York Times - October 6, 2008
Serena is Ron Rash’s fourth novel. For those unfamiliar with the elegantly fine-tuned voice of this Appalachian poet and storyteller, a writer whose reputation has been largely regional despite an O. Henry Prize and other honors, it will prompt instant interest in his first, second and third… Mr. Rash throws a mean lightning bolt. He also carefully lays the groundwork for his larger story… With bone-chilling aplomb, linguistic grace and the piercing fatalism of an Appalachian ballad, Mr. Rash lets the Pembertons’ new union generate ripple after ripple of astonishment.”
-- Janet Maslin

The News & Oberver (NC) – October 5, 2008
”Novelist, poet and Western Carolina University professor Ron Rash has created a home-grown wonder… One has to go back pretty far to find a heroine whose chemistry matches Serena's mixture of greed and philosophy. English majors will see Lady Macbeth, but I thought of Medea, the poison-using proto-feminist who destroys anyone who designs to shame her.”
-- David Frauenfelder

Indy Weekly (NC) – October 1, 2008
“Impeccably… Serena is that rare breed of book that is both tightly plotted and elegantly written, suspenseful and profound. By the story's end its title character—a Lady Macbeth without the conscience—has conducted a sweeping symphony of murder and mayhem, but she's undoubtedly a woman who'll stay with you a long time.”
-- Bronwen Dickey

Kirkus, Starred Review – August 15, 2008
“The book is an artful expansion of ‘Pemberton’s Bride,’ the brilliant standout in Rash’s story collection Chemistry (2007). The opening is unforgettable… The last hundred pages are thrilling… Should be a breakthrough for this masterful storyteller.”

Publisher Weekly – May 19, 2008
“Depression-era lumber baron George Pemberton and his callous new wife, Serena, are venality incarnate in Rash's gothic fourth novel… set, like the other three, in Appalachia… Rash's depictions of lumber camp camaraderie (despite deadly working conditions) are a welcome respite from Serena's unrelenting thirst for blood and wealth; a subplot about government efforts to buy back swaths of privately owned land to establish national parks injects real history… [A] tale of greed and corruption gone wild – and of eventual, well-deserved revenge.”

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