Sunday, June 9, 2013

Serena, by Ron Rash

If you're wanting warm fuzzies, inspiring female role models*, altruism, or characters you'll hold in your heart, this is not the book for you. But if you want a well written novel about the early days of the depression, logging in North Carolina, development of the US National Park System, and one of the most ruthless women you'll meet in literature, pick Serena up.

This book takes place near our cabin, just over the NC state line, which is one of the reasons I like to read Ron Rash -- he sets many of his works in my stomping grounds. I've hiked and camped in these hills, and treasure the beauty of the land. It amazes me whenever I realize how much of this breathtaking landscape was brutalized by the forces of man. In Serena the reader is given a back seat into the logging industry, circa 1929, and a glimpse into the lives of the George and Serena Pemberton, and their partners in a large logging company. George Pemberton had the misfortune to not follow the advice my mother-in-law gave her teenage sons (the bit about having a good time, but "keep your pecker in your pants") and before his marriage to Serena impregnated a local girl. As the Pembertons narrow their focus on their plans for the company ("narrow their focus" being a euphemism for killing off their partners and competition), the Missus shifts her focus to the problem of to her husband's bastard, and the plot thickens.

Beautiful, clever, passionate, ruthless -- that's Serena. And this book plays out the suspense of the rape of the land, and the single-minded quest for power of one intense, memorable woman.

*unless you want to be the next Lucrezia Borgia or
Cruella de Vil.

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