April 2012 Indie Next List
“Laurel Shelton and her brother live in a cove considered by many to be cursed. Crops fail, untimely deaths occur, and little light ever trickles down onto their plot of land. Their lives are largely isolated until Laurel discovers a mysterious and mute stranger playing the flute in the nearby woods. Set during the final months of WWI in the Appalachians of North Carolina, The Cove is a book that reveals the nature of humans to quickly ostracize those not like themselves and how easily people will demonize a group of people amidst the fever of war.”
— Eon Alden, City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC
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 believejust 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 happensa 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 everythingand 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.
About the Author
Ron Rash is the author of six novels, five collections of short stories, and four collections of poetry. He is also a two-time finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize and winner of the O Henry Prize, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the Sherwood Anderson Prize, the James Still Award of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and other honors. He teaches at Western Carolina University.
“A gently beautiful new novel…Rash, a native of Appalachia, has written a southern tragedy, with a self-consciously Shakespearean structure and economy…. [A] powerful novel, with some of the mysterious moral weight of Carson McCullers, along with a musical voice that belongs to Rash alone.”
“This book ranks among the best backwoods fiction since 2006’s Winter’s Bone.... [A] gripping novel…[not] just an elegant work of literary fiction, written in a voice that’s hauntingly simple and Southern; it’s also a riveting mystery.”
-Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A
“Rash is particularly good at capturing the hazy space where otherworldly phantoms mingle with plain old human meanness…Rash never lays down a dull or clunky line…at the very end…these pages ignite, and suddenly we’re racing through a conflagration of violence that no one seems able to control except Rash.”
“In Rash’s skilled hands, even farm chores take on a meditative beauty.”
“Mr. Rash’s writing is so richly atmospheric…[he] can make words take wing…. A breathless sequence of events lead the book to its devastating final sentence. And that sentence affirms Mr. Rash’s reputation for writerly miracles.”
-Janet Maslin, New York Times
“[B]eautifully crafted…In [the cove’s] story, we hear the unique voice of a region made all the more poignant for how few will ever hear it exactly this way again.”
“Rash masterfully poises suspense elements and gives full reign to other strengths: language, awe, symbolism, cast of characters and mountain knowledge…. It’s a book you could read again to savor the writing. Rash has found a subject that compellingly represents his vision—beauty shadowed by foreboding; and he’s made it symphonic.”
“Lonely young woman meets mysterious stranger. What might have been trite and formulaic is anything but in Rash’s fifth novel, a dark tale of Appalachian superstition and jingoism so good it gives you chills… Even better than the bestselling Serena (2008), for here Rash has elevated melodrama to tragedy.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Rash effortlessly summons the rugged Appalachian landscape as well as the small-mindedness and xenophobia of a country in the grip of patriotic fervor, drawing striking parallels to the heated political rhetoric of today. A powerful novel that skillfully overlays its tragic love story with pointed social commentary.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“The gripping plot, gothic atmosphere, and striking descriptions, in particular of the dismal cove, make this a top-notch story of an unusual place and its fated and fearful denizens.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review), Pick of the Week
“Rash develops his story masterfully; the large cast of characters is superbly realized, as is the xenophobia that accompanies the war, and Rash brings the various narrative threads together at the conclusion of the novel with formidable strength and pathos.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“Set during World War One, The Cove is a novel that speaks intimately to today’s politics. Beautifully written, tough, raw, uncompromising, entirely new. Ron Rash is a writer’s writer who writes for others.”
“Ron Rash uses language with such apparently effortless skill that it is as though he found words in his barn as a child and has been training them to fit his needs ever since....Rash throws a big shadow now and it’s only going to get bigger and soon.”
-Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone
“I wish the whole world spoke the way Ron Rash’s characters do. Read him for his poetry and great humanity. Just read him.”
-Jennifer Haigh, author of Faith
“Ron Rash is a writer of both the darkly beautiful and the sadly true; his new novel, The Cove, solidifies his reputation as one of our very finest novelists.”
-Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls
“The Cove is a beautifully written book that uses heartfelt characters to describe the difficult life of a lonely, misunderstood young woman.”
-The Desert News
“The Cove, the laconically beautiful new novel by Ron Rash, actually is lyrical, in the dictionary sense of having to do with song or poetry. Rash’s gorgeous prose is as close to song as you’ll find without an accompanying score . . .”
-New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Ron Rash has a deft touch in describing both landscape and household, and his use of evocatively specific regionalisms never edges into condescension or vernacular.”
-Open Letters Monthly / Like Fire (blog)
“Ron Rash always satisfies. . . His newest novel,