In the primeval woods of North Carolina, young timber baron, George Pemberton, brings his bride, Serena, to live with him in his kingdom. He had been busy enough already, fathering a child with a local girl and clear-cutting wide swaths of land. Serena quickly establishes herself as a power in her own right, knowledgeable about the timber business from her family background in Colorado, frightened of nothing and totally, totally ruthless. She is both an almost deitific figure and a satanic one. She will tolerate no criticism and her ambition is beyond measure. Beware, any who would cross her path. Both murderer of people and proud rapist of the landscape, she acquires a henchman to take care of her dirtiest deeds, among which is the removal of George’s bastard child, and the child’s mother, and less human assistants as well.
Literature with a capital L. Serena is one of the great dark females in literary history, up there with Livia, Lady MacBeth and others of their ilk. Beautiful, beautiful writing.
This is the most satisfying read I have had all year. Ron Rash is a major find. It is a wonder that he is not as well known as Ondaatje or others on that high plain. A feast, a powerful tale accompanied by a symphony of classical and literary tones. Hubris, greed, man and god, doing the right thing, magic, vengeance, good and evil, the essence of America, capitalism, and with a Greek chorus to boot. If this is not made into a world-class, best-picture level film it will be a huge, huge loss. This is a very cinematic book, rich in color, scenery, imagery, dramatic settings, shocking events, bigger than life characters, and all with purpose. Major, major work. It makes one yearn for more.