There's a woman here who wishes to be introduced to you Mr Pemberton . . . I should caution you, though. She has frightened off every other bachelor in Boston . . . Just remember you were warned, just as I've warned her.
1929. George and Serena Pemberton arrive in the wilds of the North Carolina mountains to build a life together in a rural logging town. Unlike any woman the timber empire has ever seen, Serena oversees crews, hunts rattlesnakes and saves her husband's life in the wilderness. But when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, the Pemberton's intensely passionate marriage begins to unravel. A course of events unfolds that will change the lives of everyone in their rural community and bring this riveting tale of love and revenge to its shocking reckoning.
Depression-era lumber baron George Pemberton and his callous new wife, Serena, are venality incarnate in Rash's gothic fourth novel (after The World Made Straight), set, like the other three, in Appalachia. George who coolly kills the furious father of Rachel Harmon, the teenage girl pregnant with George's bastard son is an imperious entrepreneur laying waste to North Carolina timberland without regard for the well-being of his workers. His evil pales beside that of Serena, however. Rash's depictions of lumber camp camaraderie (despite deadly working conditions) are a welcome respite from Serena's unrelenting thirst for blood and wealth; a subplot about government efforts to buy back swaths of privately owned land to establish national parks injects real history into this implacably grim tale of greed and corruption gone wild and of eventual, well-deserved revenge.