Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review - The Cove

As I have noted before, Ron Rash has become one of my favorite authors, and when I saw on Amazon that he had a new novel out, it didn't take me long to order it, get it, and devour it. The Cove is set, as usual, in the western Carolina mountains, this time in the closing days of World War 1.

The namesake cove of the title is a canyon-like valley in the shadow of granite cliffs set into the mountains. It is a dark and gloomy place, believed haunted by the superstitious locals. Brother and sister Hank and Laurel Shelton are doing their best to improve the hardscrabble farm they have inherited from their parents. Hank is soon to get married, and Laurel is a lost soul, shunned as a witch because of the pronounced birthmarks that she has and where she lives. Things begin to change for the Sheltons when a mysterious mute stranger shows up one day, ends up staying for a while, helping around the farm, and having Laurel predictably enough fall in love with him. I won't say much about how the book ends, but there is a certain inevitability to the plot, as the things that have been set in motion roll inexorably downhill toward their conclusion.

The book is as well written as all of Rash's are, and the pages flew by for me. It deals with themes of the nature of war, duty, honor, etc..., as well as family, prejudice and intolerance. I enjoyed the 250 pages very much, but if I were to have any complaint at all, it would be that it was somewhat predictable, especially given Rash's other works. Rash's world is a very sobering place; a place where bad things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. There are strong elements of tragedy in most of his novels and stories, and the cold dark hand of fate hovers over the end of most of his books including certainly this one. That being said, they are still great stories, great reads, and some of my very favorite books.

I would give this 3.5 stars out of 5, perhaps even 4 out of 5, more on the basis of predictability than anything else. A very worthwhile read.

At the same time I ordered this, I also got two other novels: In One Person by John Irving and Canada by Richard Ford. Both are brand new novels from big name authors I have read before. I am a few chapters into Canada as I write this.

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