Summary and book reviews of In the Valley by Ron Rash

In the Valley

Stories and a Novella Based on Serena

by Ron Rash

In the Valley by Ron Rash X
In the Valley by Ron Rash
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Aug 2020, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kelly Hydrick
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About this Book

Book Summary

From bestselling and award-winning writer Ron Rash ("One of the great American authors at work today."--the New York Times) comes a collection of ten searing stories and the return of the villainess who propelled Serena to national acclaim, in a long-awaited novella.

Ron Rash has long been a revered presence in the landscape of American letters. A virtuosic novelist, poet, and story writer, he evokes the beauty and brutality of the land, the relentless tension between past and present, and the unquenchable human desire to be a little bit better than circumstances would seem to allow (to paraphrase Faulkner). In these ten stories, Rash spins a haunting allegory of the times we live in--rampant capitalism, the severing of ties to the natural world in the relentless hunt for profit, the destruction of body and soul with pills meant to mute our pain--and yet within this world he illuminates acts of extraordinary decency and heroism.

Two of the stories have already been singled out for accolades: "Baptism" was chosen by Roxane Gay for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2018, and "Neighbors" was selected by Jonathan Lethem for The Best American Mystery Stories 2019. And in revisiting Serena Pemberton, Rash updates his bestselling parable of greed run amok as his deliciously vindictive heroine returns to the North Carolina wilderness she left scarred and desecrated to make one final effort to kill the child that threatens all she has accomplished.

"A gorgeous, brutal writer" (Richard Price) working at the height of his powers, Ron Rash has created another mesmerizing look at the imperfect world around us.

9

They came at dawn, ground crackling beneath the trample of hooves, amid it the sound of chickens flapping and squawking. Then voices, one among them shouting to dismount. The corn shucks rasped as Rebecca rose, quickly tugging her wool overcoat tight against her gown. She waked the children. As they rubbed questioning eyes, Rebecca whispered for them to get under the bed and be absolutely still. Hannah's chin quivered but she nodded. Ezra, three years older, took his sister's hand as they raised themselves off the mattress. He helped Hannah underneath and followed.

A pounding on the door began as Rebecca gathered the salt pouch from the larder, the box of matches off the fireboard. She considered lifting the loose plank beneath the table and placing what filled her hands inside the clay crock, but the pounding was so fierce now that the door latch looked ready to splinter. Rebecca shoved the salt and matches beneath the bed too, whispered a last plea for the children to be quiet. She...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ranging from the Civil War era, to the Great Depression of the early 1930s, to the 2008 financial crisis, the stories meander between time periods while always maintaining a feeling of Appalachian space and place. Rash writes varied, fully realized human beings with distinct backstories using efficient, nuanced prose. After finishing In the Valley, I was left with a delicious feeling of having survived. Rash's narratives provide just enough detail to pull you in, tumble you around a bit and fling you out the other side...continued

Full Review Members Only (601 words).

(Reviewed by Kelly Hydrick).

Media Reviews

Library Journal
At turns dark, craggy, and heart-wrenching, Rash's writing is never easy, but it is also lovely, moving, and rich in history and culture, just like the Appalachian region it so beautifully captures. Highly recommended for both those just discovering Rash and for returning readers.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In simple but eloquent prose, Rash describes the vulnerabilities, fears, and desires of his characters and shows how often they unite persons from vastly different walks of life and social strata. The skillful craftsmanship of these tales and their subtle but powerful climaxes make for profoundly moving reading.

Booklist (starred review)
Rash's lyrical, atmospheric collection, with its strong sense of place, will appeal to readers of Rick Bragg and Jesmyn Ward.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Rash is expert at revealing the sword of vengeance's double edge...Sure, now and again Rash tries to channel Cormac McCarthy and fails; a couple stories seem slight; and so on. But those are quibbles, not disfiguring flaws. A brace of strong stories, and the novella's a fine, suspenseful contribution to the thriving genre of Appalachian mayhem.

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Beyond the Book

A History of the Appalachian Region

Appalachian Region Map The Appalachian region of the United States (not to be confused with the entirety of the Appalachian Mountains, which extend into Canada) stretches over 1,000 miles from southern New York to northeastern Mississippi. A mountainous crossroads, the area is defined by disparities and variety in its history, economics and culture. Today, it is home to more than 25 million people.

The first humans to live in Appalachia were hunter-gatherers that entered the region more than 12,000 years ago. Farming eventually led to the development of complex agrarian societies. Before European settlement, the Cherokee people had many villages throughout Southern Appalachia. Spanish explorers encountered the Cherokees as they made incursions into the...

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