Having read and loved all four of Ron Rash’s novels, I decided to try one of his short story collections. Even in this vehicle, Rash’s velvet, Southern voice shines through. Warm molasses. Long rumbles of thunder in the evening.
The first story is “Hard Times”. The title doesn’t just refer to the economic hardships of the Great Depression, but to the hardness that desperation and hunger instilled in the people who lived through it. Rash shines a light on the cold reality of starvation not just of the body, but of the soul.
“Back of Beyond” and “The Ascent” tell of a different kind of deprivation and desperation. That caused by meth. Whole families are effected by addiction and its madness. I, for one, didn’t realize that meth was such a huge problem in the mountains.
“The Woman Who Believed in Jaguars” still niggles at me. Not so much because of the story, but because of the question: Did jaguars ever roam in the Carolinas? I know that before the arrival of people, many animals you wouldn’t associate with this area were here. Like bison, for instance. Cougars and wild horses. Cheetahs, an animal you’d associate with Africa, actually evolved in North America. I kept remembering a series of documentaries I saw called Prehistoric America: A Journey Through the Ice Age and Beyond. Many areas were reminiscent of the Serengeti.
In “The Corpse Bird” a man has to cope with a clash between his mountain roots with their mysteries and superstitions, and the cold light of the modern world. “Lincolnites” shows us the struggles that women faced during the Civil War, living alone in a Confederate state while their men fought for the Union.
These are just a few of the offerings in this collection. Ron Rash makes Appalachia come alive with all of its ancient secrets. He has become one of my favorite authors.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars