Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe - just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.
Then it happens - a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.
But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything - and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.
This lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as its award-winning predecessor Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.
One reason Rash's novel packs such a punch is that its themes are, like love and hatred, timeless. You could take the basic structure of The Cove and place it anywhere, at anytime, and it would still be relevant to modern readers. But it's not only the framework of his novel that makes it such a good read. Rash's characters aren't stereotypical. They breathe life into story and give the structural skeleton its flesh. The overall product is a complete work of literary fiction which, though not without flaws, simply tells a damn good story in language that's satisfyingly rich and well-suited to the more serious tone of the book. (Reviewed by Lisa Guidarini).
[A] powerful novel, with some of the mysterious moral weight of Carson McCullers, along with a musical voice that belongs to Rash alone.
This book ranks among the best backwoods fiction since 2006's Winter's Bone.... [A] gripping novel… [not] just an elegant work of literary fiction, written in a voice that's hauntingly simple and Southern; it's also a riveting mystery.
The Washington Post
Rash never lays down a dull or clunky line… at the very end… these pages ignite, and suddenly we're racing through a conflagration of violence that no one seems able to control except Rash.
The New York Times
Mr. Rash's writing is so richly atmospheric… [he] can make words take wing… A breathless sequence of events lead the book to its devastating final sentence. And that sentence affirms Mr. Rash's reputation for writerly miracles.
Publishers Weekly, Pick of the Week
Starred Review. The gripping plot, gothic atmosphere, and striking descriptions, in particular of the dismal cove, make this a top-notch story of an unusual place and its fated and fearful denizens.
Starred Review. Rash effortlessly summons the rugged Appalachian landscape as well as the small-mindedness and xenophobia of a country in the grip of patriotic fervor, drawing striking parallels to the heated political rhetoric of today. A powerful novel that skillfully overlays its tragic love story with pointed social commentary.
Starred Review. Sharp work from a promising writer who might do even better with the broader scale of a novel.
Starred Review. Rash develops his story masterfully; the large cast of characters is superbly realized, as is the xenophobia that accompanies the war, and Rash brings the various narrative threads together at the conclusion of the novel with formidable strength and pathos.
Jennifer Haigh, author of Faith
I wish the whole world spoke the way Ron Rash's characters do. Read him for his poetry and great humanity. Just read him.
Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone
Ron Rash uses language with such apparently effortless skill that it is as though he found words in his barn as a child and has been training them to fit his needs ever since... Rash throws a big shadow now and it's only going to get bigger and soon.
Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls
Ron Rash is a writer of both the darkly beautiful and the sadly true; his new novel, The Cove, solidifies his reputation as one of our very finest novelists.
Set during World War One, The Cove is a novel that speaks intimately to today's politics. Beautifully written, tough, raw, uncompromising, entirely new. Ron Rash is a writer's writer who writes for others.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. Poetic prose This is the first I have read by Ron Rash. His descriptions of the Appalachian countryside and his handling of his characters and their circumstances is so nearly exquisite that even the small details sing, and I became involved in the story from... Read More
Rated of 5
by Diane S. The Cove There is no doubt that the strength of Ron Rash's writing lies in his use of regional color, his descriptions of the Appalachians are lush and elegant, just beautiful. This books highlights the superstitions of the mountain people, the loneliness... Read More
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 writers. Then in 2005 he won the prestigious O. Henry Prize for his short story "Speckled Trout." In 2008, his collection,...
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