Serena by Ron Rash
The quality of the writing is the only thing that saved this book for me. This story in a less capable writer’s hands would have been wholly unreadable for me. The main characters were cartoonish in their villainy and invincibility. Normally I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief when reading, especially for a writer of this caliber, but it helps if the characters are at least remotely sympathetic. Serena is loathsome in her complete lack of humanity and her husband is not much better.
If the body count hadn’t been so high and come so easily, if Mr. Rash had delved a little deeper into what makes Serena tick or if he hadn’t succumbed to such convenient plot devices as the one-dimensional, slavishly devoted hit man and his clairvoyant mother, I could have better enjoyed the beautifully written scenic descriptions and the unflinching documentation of the history of the logging industry and the devastation it wrought on the land and the people who worked it.
Rated of 5
by Kristen H. (Baltimore, MD)
Into the woods
I had high expectations for the book based on the preliminary reviews I'd read, so perhaps it isn't surprising that I was disappointed, although I was glad to have read it in the end.
The story was weirdly Shakespearean, and there were enough references to old English that it was clear that this was intentional. Think one of the bloodier stories - Hamlet or Macbeth, maybe, without any of the wry humour that underlies those tragedies. It also had a touch of the Ancient Greek plays (especially with the use of the chorus) - Medea, maybe - without the character development.
The characters were unconvincing and un-nuanced, and many of the plot points felt forced or contrived. What made the story worthwhile, however, was the sub-story of the development of the National Park System, which is timely with the upcoming Ken Burns film on the subject, as well as the approaching NPS centennial in 2016. The presentation of the logging communities and the rape of the forests is in sharp contrast with the maneuvering land-grab that protected the lands into one of the most cherished parks in the system.
Flawed, but worthwhile.
Rated of 5
by Shirley F. (Franksville, WI)
I wanted to like it
I really wanted to like this book which is about Appalachia around the Depression. I enjoyed the descriptions of the area, the mountains and the logging camp. My chief objection is that the characters were not well developed except for Serena and her husband and Rachel Harmon. While Serena and Pemberton were not likable characters, they don't have to be in order for me to appreciate a story, I felt they were consumed by their own greed and ruthlessness. I also felt that the author rushed the ending and I'm not sure if it is entirely believable. It is an American tragedy, but I felt it was less of an epic because of the lack of empathy that I felt for the characters.I hesitate to give the book 3 out of 5 stars and would probably give it 2 1/2.
Rated of 5
by Barbara S. (Brick, NJ)
Not Rash's Best
Serena was not the best of the Ron Rash books. It was a disappointment. Grisham and other authors are also guilty of giving us books not on the par with their first few great reads. In his own words, Rash put a "rusty" on us.
I did enjoy the lingo from that time when he used it and, of course, you knew it because he put it in quotes.
The lack of character development and long, boring glimpses into everyday life added little to the story.
Serena was such an unappetizing character even though he tried to make her unique with the use of the eagle and the horse. Murder came so easy to her but what was she about really?
Rated of 5
by Patricia L. (Seward, AK)
The Depression is looming as rich Mr. Pemberton travels to his North Carolina lumber camp with his new bride, Serena. Both are fully aware that upon arrival they will encounter the father of a young, sixteen year old who is carrying Pemberton's child. A fight ensues after which the young girl is not only unwed but an orphan. The remaining 350 pages of Serena are as predictable as the first ten. All attempts at creating believable characters and situations are half-hearted and one-sided. Serena is a mundane book that could have been better.
Rated of 5
by Marganna K. (Edmonds, WA)
Serena: Not Believeable
The story is well written, but shallow with a story line that is predictable, not believable and slow. Ron Rash, author, is skilled in language use, description of time and place and weaves interesting history into a shallow story. The first 100 or so pages just didn't seem to go anywhere; then the story picks up the pace. The reason I continued to read it was for the information about the logging, timber, depression era and National Park formation. In that respect, I thought the author had information to portray and did so with skill. It's too bad he used such one-dimensional characters. I felt terrible about the logging and exploitation of workers, beasts and countryside. No, I would not read another book by this author, would not recommend it to friends, didn't care about the individuals and wouldn't replace the book if I lost it unfinished.
Rated of 5
by Lynn R. (Wautoma, WI)
I feel that if there are people in this world (and I am sure that there are) that are this selfish and uncaring about human life, they do not need novels written about them! They not only didn't care about their workers and unknown people, they didn't care about anyone close to them.
The only part of the book that I felt had any merit was if the history was correct about the feud between the lumber barons and mine owners and the people who were instrumental in acquiring land for our National Parks. I am sure there were many people who did not agree with these purchases of land, especially during the great depression and if they took jobs away from people trying to feed their families. For two people with the egos as large as Pemberton and Serena to marry and work harmoniously for the same goals, I don't believe it. The character of Galloway in my opinion, to turn from a somewhat normal person to a completely brainwashed fool was very hard to take. The book read very easily and quickly, which I am very thankful for, because I doubt I would have finished it otherwise. I am very glad I did not spend one nickel on this book, just wasted some time.
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