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Serena by Ron Rash
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Serena (2008)

by Ron Rash

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English (53)  Dutch (3)  Danish (1)  All languages (57)
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I just have one thing to say: Ron Rash is phenomenal and you must go read everything this man has written. ( )
  reigningstars | Dec 4, 2014 |
Serena is newly wedded to George Pemberton, the head of a logging company in western North Carolina in the late 1920’s. While on leave in Boston from his business Pemberton has met and married Serena. Serena comes from a lumber family in Colorado who died under somewhat unclear circumstances in a fire that destroyed their home. She is a ruthless, strong-willed person who is driven to dominate and succeed at any cost, including exploitation of the environment and murder of those she believes stand in her way. Pemberton similarly pursues their interests harshly, but it becomes apparent that he is influenced heavily by Serena to resort to more extreme actions to secure their success.

Before he left for Boston Pemberton impregnated a local girl, Rachael, a scullery worker in the logging camp kitchen. Upon debarking from the train from the north, Rachael and her father are waiting for him at the station. The father is intent on attacking Pemberton for his misdeeds with his daughter, but Pemberton responds by killing him with his knife. We get a first peek at Serena’s psyche here as she shows no sympathy for the girl or her circumstances. A child is born to Rachael and she struggles in her impoverished setting in the hills of western North Carolina.

Serena pushes Pemberton further and further to violent acts to eliminate any perceived obstacles to complete domination of the logging industry in the region. Along the way Serena acquires a golden eagle which, through her force of will and determination, she trains to prey on the rattlesnakes that are frequently disabling or killing the loggers. She also cultivates a rough-edged mountain man named Galloway who becomes her personal “eagle” for going after people she believes stand in her way.

Without revealing the story’s dramatic events or ending it is plain that Serena and Pemberton will descend further and further into the depravity that their motives drive them to. There is a Lady Macbeth echo in Serena’s ambition and manipulation of her husband, although she shows no evidence of the guilt that Lady Macbeth struggled with.

The novel’s portrayal of the power-mad Pemberton’s is juxtaposed by frequent scenes of conversation among a group of loggers who form a sort of Greek chorus in their musings on what has been happening in the logging camp and to people targeted by the Pemberton’s

Rachael continues to play a role throughout the story, largely as a contrast to Serena’s haughtiness and egotism and as an object of Serena’s viciousness. When Serena has a miscarriage, she is determined that Rachael and her son must die so as not to rival her position with Pemberton. The decisions and actions Rachael must take are a major part of the story.

At the time of this rapacious clear-cut logging in the Appalachians there is a movement afoot in Washington to establish a national park in the Smokey Mountains. The Pemberton’s and the logging industry’s scorn of this evoke the history of corporate business opposition to conservation movement of the early 20th century. Serena and Pemberton look with admiration and pride at the denuded mountain sides their lumbering has created and pay no heed to the destruction of the rivers that has followed.

I bought this book while in the Great Smokey National Park of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It is a riveting, enthralling story that was made more interesting by experiencing the atmosphere of this awe-inspiring region. ( )
  stevesmits | Nov 3, 2014 |
Serena was an unusually strong women in the 1930's depression. From the beginning when she walked off the train to be confronted by her new husband's pregnant mistress and her father, to the end of the book, she proved to be as strong, greedy and as ruthless as any man. It was interesting to learn a little more about the logging business in Appalachia during that time and the beginning of our national parks. Interesting book, but was disturbing at times. ( )
  dkfgroup | Nov 1, 2014 |
That damn Serena is sure one jealous woman ( )
  KatieEmilySmith | Sep 23, 2014 |
I picked this book for book club after I saw that Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper were starring in the yet to be produced movie. It was awesome. Completely unlike anything I read in the previews. I was not expecting what was going to happen on the next page... ever. An absolute must read! ( )
  lindseyrivers | Sep 10, 2014 |
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A hand, that with a grasp may grip the worlde.
--Christopher Marlowe
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For my bother, Thomas Rash
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When Pemberton returned to the North Carolina mountains after three months in Boston settling his father's estate, among those waiting on the train platform was a young woman pregnant with Pemberton's child.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061470856, Hardcover)

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.

Rash's masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.

The Gift of Silence: An Essay by Ron Rash

When readers ask how I came to be a writer, I usually mention several influences: my parents’ teaching by example the importance of reading; a grandfather who, though illiterate, was a wonderful storyteller; and, as I grew older, an awareness that my region had produced an inordinate number of excellent writers and that I might find a place in that tradition. Nevertheless, I believe what most made me a writer was my early difficulty with language.

My mother tells me that certain words were impossible for me to pronounce, especially those with j’s and g’s. Those hard consonants were like tripwires in my mouth, causing me to stumble over words such as “jungle” and “generous.” My parents hoped I would grow out of this problem, but by the time I was five, I’d made no improvement. There was no speech therapist in the county, but one did drive in from the closest city once a week.

That once a week was a Saturday morning at the local high school. For an hour the therapist worked with me. I don’t remember much of what we did in those sessions, except that several times she held my hands to her face as she pronounced a word. I do remember how large and empty the classroom seemed with just the two of us in it, and how small I felt sitting in a desk made for teenagers.

I improved, enough so that by summer’s end the therapist said I needed no further sessions. I still had trouble with certain words (one that bedevils me even today is “gesture”), but not enough that when I entered first grade my classmates and teacher appeared to notice. Nevertheless, certain habits of silence had taken hold. It was not just self-consciousness. Even before my sessions with the speech therapist, I had convinced myself that if I listened attentively enough to others my own tongue would be able to mimic their words. So I listened more than I spoke. I became comfortable with silence, and, not surprisingly, spent a lot of time alone wandering nearby woods and creeks. I entertained myself with stories I made up, transporting myself into different places, different selves. I was in training to be a writer, though of course at that time I had yet to write more than my name.

Yet my most vivid memory of that summer is not the Saturday morning sessions at the high school but one night at my grandmother’s farmhouse. After dinner, my parents, grandmother and several other older relatives gathered on the front porch. I sat on the steps as the night slowly enveloped us, listening intently as their tongues set free words I could not master. Then it appeared. A bright-green moth big as an adult’s hand fluttered over my head and onto the porch, drawn by the light filtering through the screen door. The grown-ups quit talking as it brushed against the screen, circled overhead, and disappeared back into the night. It was a luna moth, I learned later, but in my mind that night it became indelibly connected to the way I viewed language--something magical that I grasped at but that was just out of reach.

In first grade, I began learning that loops and lines made from lead and ink could be as communicative as sound. Now, almost five decades later, language, spoken or written, is no longer out of reach, but it remains just as magical as that bright-green moth. What writer would wish it otherwise.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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 rattlesnakes, 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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