Above the Waterfall: Book summary and reviews of Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

Above the Waterfall

by Ron Rash

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash X
Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2015
    272 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

In this poetic and haunting tale set in contemporary Appalachia, New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash illuminates lives shaped by violence and a powerful connection to the land.

Les, a long-time sheriff just three-weeks from retirement, contends with the ravages of crystal meth and his own duplicity in his small Appalachian town.

Becky, a park ranger with a harrowing past, finds solace amid the lyrical beauty of this patch of North Carolina.

Enduring the mistakes and tragedies that have indelibly marked them, they are drawn together by a reverence for the natural world. When an irascible elderly local is accused of poisoning a trout stream, Les and Becky are plunged into deep and dangerous waters, forced to navigate currents of disillusionment and betrayal that will force them to question themselves and test their tentative bond - and threaten to carry them over the edge.

Echoing the heartbreaking beauty of William Faulkner and the spiritual isolation of Carson McCullers, Above the Waterfall demonstrates once again the prodigious talent of "a gorgeous, brutal writer" (Richard Price) hailed as "one of the great American authors at work today" (Janet Maslin, New York Times).

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Combining suspense with acute observations and flashing insights, Rash tells a seductive and disquieting tale about our intrinsic attachment to and disastrous abuse of the land and our betrayal of our best selves." - Booklist

"[T]here's no denying Rash's grasp of the North Carolina landscape and its reflection in the oft-tortured souls of its denizens, making this novel one of his most successful ventures into poetic humanism." - Publishers Weekly

"An ordinary whodunit seems to have elbowed aside a more spacious novel about characters whose deep affinities with the natural world, and its interpreters, sustain them among unremitting man-made violence. For once this major American writer appears, uncharacteristically, to have veered off course." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

A brilliant read.
“Though sunlight tinges the mountains, black leather-winged bodies swing low. First fireflies blink languidly. Beyond this meadow, cicadas rev and slow like sewing machines. All else is ready for night except night itself. I watch the last light lift off level land. Ground shadows seep and thicken. Circling trees form banks. The meadow itself becomes a pond filling, on its surface dozens of black-eyed susans”

This, the first paragraph of Ron Rash’s sixth novel, assures readers that they are, once again, in for a feast of beautiful prose. While his evocative descriptions of place confirm Rash’s love of the Appalachia, this award-winning American author works the same magic on his characters, and not just the major ones. Be they strong or weak, principled or easily corrupted, it soon becomes apparent that he cares just as much for the people that populate the North Carolina mountains.

His tale covers a five-day period during which Les, a sheriff about to retire, deals not only with meth addicts, but also a fish-kill at a local upmarket Resort. It seems from video evidence and earlier confrontations that Gerald Blackwelder, an elderly widower with a bad heart, is responsible. But Becky Shytle, the Park Ranger with whom Les has a tentative relationship, is convinced that Gerald is innocent. Of course, Les knows that Becky has been wrong about a man before.

This novel is not about the mystery, the who of which is relatively obvious, the how and why, fairly easily solved, but about the characters and their interaction. The first person narrative is shared by Les and Becky: distinguishing between the two is easy when one pays attention to the context; but Rash also uses different styles of narrative, giving Becky a much more lyrical voice, a poetic way with words. Les muses: “You can see heaven all around us, Preacher Waldorp claimed. But Mist Creek Valley would soon confirm that the same was true of hell”, while Becky describes her night under the stars thus: “Above me that night, tiny lights brightened and dimmed, brightened and dimmed. Photinus carolinus. Fireflies synchronized to make a single meadow-wide flash, then all dark between. Like being inside the earth’s pulsing heart”

Rash touches on a myriad of topics: depression, guilt, post-traumatic stress, the divide between legal and moral, loyalty, and the strength of the bond with place. “I’d seen others besides C.J.’s great-uncle leave houses where they and their families had lived for generations. They’d enter nursing homes or move in with sons or daughters. Like I told C.J., you’d be going to their funerals within six months”

Readers new to Rash’s work are sure to want to seek out his backlist; fans will not be disappointed with this latest work. A brilliant read.

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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, six short story collections, and seven 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 ...

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