Serena: Book summary and reviews of Serena by Ron Rash

Serena

A Novel

By Ron Rash

Serena
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2009,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

First published in hardcover in October 2008. Publishing in paperback in October 2009.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Should be a breakthrough for this masterful storyteller." - Kirkus Reviews

"[Rash] has outdone himself. The story of this brilliant, ambitious, seductive woman is a searing tragedy of Shakespearean proportions—or, in simpler terms, a damn good book that will keep you awake far too late and, well after you’ve finished it, haunt your dreams." -- Julia Glass, author of Three Junes

About the Author
Ron Rash is the author of three prizewinning novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; three collections of poems; and three collections of stories. He teaches at Western Carolina University.

Reading guide.

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Ray P. (Selden, NY)
Serena depicts a mix of beauty and violence.
George and Serena Pemberton are newly married and have made the huge decision to relocate from Boston to North Carolina during the uncertain times of 1929. In an effort to make their mark in the world they dream of building their own timber empire. This is not as easy as it sounds as a couple of "Yankees" are not necessarily accepted in the mountains of the south.

However, George and Serena have a serious mean streak. George's philandering has spawned an illegitimate child and Serena has turned herself into a real "mountain woman" - making them a formidable pair. When Serena learns that she is unable to bear a child - she takes out her pain and frustration on the illegitimate child George fathered. What follows is a battle of blood-lust that turns surprisingly violent.

Ron Rash has penned a classic American saga against the rugged landscape of the N. Carolina Appalachia region that reads like an epic soap opera where each character has much to gain or lose.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Shellie (Book Blogger @ layersofthought, AZ)
A Thrilling example of American Historical Fiction
I adore a good American Historical novel. Serena is one. The novel has a wonderful flow. It has language and dialog from the era and location, as well as descriptions of the locale. It is believable yet thrilling which kept me thinking about it. The main character is an incredible, complex, and amazing woman. An embodiment of an evil Athena and one of the best dark female characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. I would compare Serena with two of my all time favorites of the genre - My Antonia by Willa Cather, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Serena is now included it in that lofty list. All are 5 Star books for me.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Cecile G. (Mansfield, TX)
Serena
Rash picked a fascinating industry around which to set his novel and he is a brilliant storyteller. Having said that, I would have liked more history of the development of the national parks system and especially the past histories of the characters. I suppose I am drawn to historical fiction and with a little more development this novel could make s a real presence for the logging industry and the parks development. thanks for the opportunity to share this fine work.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Molinda C. (APO, AE)
Serena
This book was difficult for me to read at first. I knew that something bad was going to happen and I wanted it to happen right then so that the pervasive sense of foreboding could go away. Well, bad things started happening all right. This is a Greek Tragedy set in a logging camp during the Depression. Ron Rash cleverly incorporates the Greek chorus in the body of a logging gang--such an insightful, observant and ultimately impotent group of men have never been more skillfully written.

Rated 2 of 5 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 3 of 5 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?

...36 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Ron Rash Author Biography

Photo: Mark Haskett

Ron Rash was born in Chester, South Carolina, in 1953, grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and is a graduate of Gardner-Webb University and Clemson University. In 1994 he published his first book, a collection of short stories titled The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth. Since then, Rash has published four collections of poetry, three short story collections, and five novels, all to wide critical acclaim and several awards and honors. Rash's poems and stories have appeared in more than 100 magazines and journals over the years. With each new book, Rash has confirmed his position as a central and significant Appalachian writer alongside well-established names like Fred Chappell, Lee Smith, and Robert Morgan.

In 1996, Rash won the Sherwood Anderson Prize, a grant for developing ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

Other books by Ron Rash at BookBrowse
  • The Cove jacket
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