Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cove by Ron Rash

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Local Library
Read: July 14, 2012

The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war. 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.

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I feel like the only person I know who doesn’t shiver with admiration at the mention of Ron Rash. I mean no offense, but I don’t get the hype. The Cove the first of his novels that I’ve had opportunity to sample and if I’m completely honest, it left me with no interest in the rest of his work. 

Rash has been credited for his stunningly recreation of the atmosphere of Appalachia and I can’t say the compliments are undeserved. The descriptions are beautiful, but I also found them intensely boring. Rash would get into the quiet beauty of the woods and my eyes would begin a slow rotation to the back of my head. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up with this book still open on my lap. Seriously folks, I stopped keeping track after five. 

As to the characters, I admit they are well-crafted, but I can’t say that I cared for them much. Across the board the cast the character arcs felt stilted and I couldn’t relate to their experiences. It is very ‘what you see is what you get’ and I don’t find that sort of static, black and white depiction appealing. 

Needless to say, The Cove didn’t live up to the expectations. Probably my fault for setting the expectation so high, but I really think this is another situation in which the author’s style and my reading preference failed to meet.

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He stared at the mountains and thought how small and fleeting human life was. Forty or fifty years, a blink of time for these mountains, and there'd be no memory of what happened here.
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