Rash’s fourth book of short stories returns us to his Appalachia, covering a wide swath of time, from the Civil War to the present day. Rash has a gift for story-telling and the dozen tales here will do no harm to his sterling reputation. His characters tend to be at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder and their struggles tend toward the existential. A young Union soldier’s wife is threatened by a hostile Confederate. A family’s life is endangered by their meth-addict son. A lonely woman, unable to recover from the long-ago death of her only child, retreats from reality. A child steals food in order to survive. This is a world in which kindness shows an occasional glimmer of light, and, as often as not, is suddenly doused by a sturdier form of darkness. But while the stories here tell of hard lives, Rash’s command of imagery and language is, as usual, stunning, and his tales are a joy to read. Read them several times and find images you missed in the first or second go-round. Like most excellent work, Rash’s stories improve with closer inspection. I am reminded of another of my favorite authors, Thomas Hardy. Hardy, like Rash, was a poet. The skill it takes to conjure much in a little clearly flows well from that taut talent. It is a short book, so rereading will take little effort. The reward in joyful appreciation will repay that investment many times.