Books & Essays
The World Made Straight
Saints at the River
A major new Southern voice emerges in this novel about a town divided by the aftermath of a tragic accident-and the woman caught in the middle
When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dangerous precedent. Torn between the two sides is Maggie Glenn, a twenty-eight-year-old newspaper photographer who grew up in the town and has been sent to document the incident. Since leaving home almost ten years ago, Maggie has done her best to avoid her father, but now, as the town's conflict opens old wounds, she finds herself revisiting the past she's fought so hard to leave behind. Meanwhile, the reporter who's accompanied her to cover the story turns out to have a painful past of his own, and one that might stand in the way of their romance.
Drawing on the same lyrical prose and strong sense of place that distinguished his award-winning first novel, One Foot in Eden, Ron Rash has written a book about the deepest human themes: the love of the land, the hold of the dead on the living, and the need to dive beneath the surface to arrive at a deeper truth. Saints at the River confirms the arrival of one of today's most gifted storytellers.
Book Review #1:
"Rash's second novel begins with a...death-by-water, but soon evolves into a scandal fraught with moral ambiguity....Rash writes no-nonsense prose that can seem more expedient than artful. Still, Saints at the River is a carefully spun tale, both beautiful and mysterious. It reveals a deep understanding of nature as it clashes with that equally potent force, human emotion." Anna Godberson, Esquire
Book Review #2:
When the 12-year-old daughter of a wealthy banker drowns in South Carolina's Tamassee River, her death sets off an emotionally charged battle between the grieving parents, who want to put up a dam to recover her body, and the local environmentalists, who will risk everything to defend the pristine state of their river. Rash pens his novel in clear, unadorned prose appropriate to its ripped-from-the-headlines premise; only the lyrical opening passage, which recounts the girl's death, reflects his skill as a poet (Among the Believers; Raising the Dead). But the book is rich with nuance, mostly because Rash selects Maggie Glenn as his first-person narrator. A Tamassee native who now works as a news photographer in the state capital, Columbia, Maggie has deep ties to the town, but she's detached from the main fray. As a result, her news angles and her romantic attachments keep shifting. Maggie's rage against her father isn't sufficiently explored to carry the weight it bears in the plot, but Rash compensates for this weakness by creating detailed, highly particular characters. A professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and author of a previous Southern novel, One Foot in Eden, Rash clearly knows the people and places he writes about, and that authenticity pays off in a conclusion that packs an unexpected and powerful punch. Publishers Weekly
Book Review #3:
From the first page to the last, the author's down-to-earth characters and rich descriptions of the backwoods carry readers through this emotionally charged story. Library Journal Spare, resonant, unputdownable. Kirkus Reviews Appalachian dialects and Rash's lyrical description of this small Appalachian town create a strong sense of place, adding to his well-spoken plea against the devastation caused by damming the nation's rivers. Booklist
One Foot in Eden: a Novel