New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash returns again to Appalachia to capture lives haunted by violence and tenderness, hope and fear in unforgettable stories that span the Civil War to the present day.
In the title story, two drug addicted friends return to the farm where they worked as boys to steal their boss's unusual but valuable war trophies. In 'The Trusty', Ron Rash's first story to appear in the New Yorker, a prisoner sent to fetch water for the chain gang tries to sweet talk a farmer's young wife into helping him escape, only to find she is as trapped as he is. In 'Something Rich and Strange', a diver is called upon to pull a drowned girl's body free from under a falls, but finds her eerily at peace below the surface.
The violence of Rash's characters and their raw settings are matched only by their unexpected tenderness and stark beauty, a masterful combination that has earned Rash an avalanche of praise.
Ron Rash is a multi-award-winning poet, short story writer and novelist. A PEN/Faulkner finalist for Serena, he is also a recipient of the O.Henry Prize and winner of the 2011 Frank O’Connor Award for Burning Bright, a collection of short stories. His other work includes the novels, One Foot in Eden and The Cove. He teaches at Western Carolina University and lives in the Appalachian Mountains, South Carolina.
‘[The stories] display a universality that goes beyond time or place...There is a purity and precision in Rash’s prose reminiscent of his poetry, that makes these stories deceptively easy to read as they are hard to forget. This is memorable and unflinching short fiction.’ Booklist
‘Short stories may be to novels as carpentry is to architecture, but all of Rash’s stories are crafted, jointed and dovetailed in quite beautiful, striking ways. Perhaps good short stories are consistently distinguished by the sort of severe, exacting clarity in which Rash specialises.’ Canberra Times
‘Rash writes in the tradition of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and more contemporary writers such as Charles Frazier and Cormac McCarthy. His fiction occupies that strange, language-driven netherland between myth and realism. It’s a dark, poetic, blood-soaked world.’ Weekend Australian
Rash's latest short fiction collection explores the often harsh vicissitudes of life in North Carolina. In the title story, two drug-addicted friends make plans to rob a former employer of his WWII souvenir, while "Night Hawks" features a former teacher with a self-inflicted facial scar who seeks refuge as a late-night radio DJ. Rash's period stories, though, make the biggest impression, like the Depression-era "The Trusty," in which a con man on a chain gang seduces a lonely farmer's wife in the hope of using her to aid in his escape. In "The Magic Bus," a 16-year-old country girl encounters two San Francisco hippies in a flower-painted VW microbus who entice her to run away with them. "The Dowry," set immediately after the Civil War, relates how a pastor's surprising sacrifice allows a young Union veteran to marry the daughter of a Confederate officer who lost his hand in battle. For a change of pace, in the humorous "A Sort of Miracle," an accountant on an illegal bear hunt finds safety in the hands of his two slacker brothers-in-law. Although too many of the stories rely on the same basic dynamic, Rash impresses with clear-eyed, sympathetic writing about flawed and troubled characters.