This book will stay with the reader in much the same was as Steinbeck holds onto you and wont let you go.
Harsh realties abound in this stunning book when George Pemberton, the timber baron, disembarks from the train in North Carolina with his new wife Serena and are greeted by an angry father and a very pregnant young girl. What ensues sets the tone for this often brutal and very greedy look into the depression era timber industry.
Serena is no prim and proper lady, she is just as determined as any man and when she sets her sights on Pemberton, she got what she wanted even if he wasnt so sure that it should be taken at no cost.
When Serena begins to see a person getting into her way, there is no problem tracking them down and having the problem dealt with, this isnt just other businessmen, this is anyone. Anyone that Serena sees as a threat to her plans. A little too late Pemberton see what type of monster he has helped to create but his need for money and power allows him to turn a blind eye to the destruction of both forest and humanity.
The visuals that Rash gives you in both character and setting are truly amazing, you fall into this book and lose your own surroundings and time. He draws such a complete picture that you truly feel that you are there and that these people are real. The ending is beyond a doubt stunning and leaves you breathless and with more questions. Truly a great find and one that you will want to pass on to your friends.
Serena relates the story of a fictional 1920's 'power couple', engaged in the strip logging business in Western North Carolina. They appear to have met serendipitously in Boston, and the novel opens with a brutal murder scene....and continues on from there. One only begins to suspect the true point of the novel very late in it, and the end hits the reader like a freight train.
Serena is intensely and well-written; the prose is spare yet aggressive and powerful. This is no bucolic, touristy-with-a-happy-ending novel. I recommend it highly.
I received a copy of this book through BookBrowse's "First Impressions" program and posted the following review on their website:
Ron Rash is a master storyteller. This book is even better than the last book of his that I read - Saints at the River. Serena grabs you from the first page and never lets go. The characters are vivid and very well written. Serena just leaps off the page. The story, set in 1929, is about greed. lust, the destruction of natural resources, wealth, and the sometimes destructive power that comes with it .
Quite compelling and beautifully written, I can't wait to see what Mr. Rash does next. Recommended for book clubs and all readers of gorgeous prose.