Fiction 2008 | 362 pages
During the depression, in 1929, newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to harvest timber and create a timber empire. Their story is dark, visceral, deadly, and, yes, loving. Serena, our main character, is an unfathomably strong and powerful woman, capable and resourceful (an anomaly at the time) who knows her own mind. She is also ruthless, ambitious, greedy, malicious, amoral, a megalomaniac, and a sociopath. And a murderer. The 100 timber workers, with the Pemberton’s at their head, struggle with death, maiming, poverty, issues of significant safety, and a government movement to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, right on their land. (As an aside, the most-visited National Park in the US!)
Many reviewers write about the beauty of Rash’s writing. He has a beautiful turn of the phrase; eloquent, descriptive, intense. However, I did not find his writing quite as compelling as many did. He solves every problem by murdering someone. I found this very uncreative. I think it would have been a more interesting story if he explored other means for solving problems.
We get to know Serena in depth, and to some extent, her husband Pemberton. But the rest of the characters blur together in their superficiality.
Perhaps it is unfair of me to judge a book harshly by the story it tells, but I have. There are many murders, along with countless deaths and loss of limbs by logging. Virtually all the murders are not explained. It is unclear why these people must die. I abhor gratuitous violence, and I believe that is what Rash writes about, his strong female characters notwithstanding. I finished this because it is a book club read, but I do not recommend it. I am very intrigued to hear why the gentle spirit who recommended this book to us, did so.