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Saints at the River

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  1,891 ratings  ·  217 reviews
When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dange ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Picador (first published January 1st 2004)
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Best Books Set in Appalachia
82nd out of 385 books — 562 voters
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Community Reviews

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Dear Ron,

You're awesome. You not only write beautiful and poetic prose but you actually seem to understand what makes people tick. Your characters are so vivid, so real, so amazingly genuine, I feel as if I know them, intimately.

And let me tell you, if I wasn't already happily married I might admit to having a huge crush on you because, honestly, any man who understands women (or maybe just women like me) the way you do makes a girl's heart go pitter-patter. Not only do you give us strong heroin
Larry Bassett
I am on a Ron Rash reading binge. This is his second novel and was published in 2004. Before his first novel in 2002 he had published poetry and short stories. As a transplant from the North (Michigan) to the South (Virginia), I am definitely a carpetbagger. I live in the South to take advantage of the fine climate: four seasons of three months each with relatively mild winters. I live in a town that nurtured Jerry Falwell and is located in the Bible Belt. I am an ethical humanist (a polite term ...more
I've read Nothing Gold Can Stay and loved it, so when I decided to read Saints at the River I was fully expecting it to be wonderful. His short stories humanize southern and in particular Appalachian stereotypes, and Saints at the River did do this through plot, but, unfortunately, failed at empathizing and humanizing with the characterization of Maggie, the first person narrator.

Maggie defines herself by the men in her life and has very little personality and opinions of her own--father, lover
Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
That flows by the throne of God?

Yes, we'll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river,
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of the Lord.

The words of that old hymn have always haunted me, maybe because a large portion of my childhood was spent on the banks of a beautiful river, tucked up in the mountains, where I felt God and the angels walking with me. When I first saw th
I was deeply moved by Saints at the River, a powerful novel about a wild, scenic river in South Carolina (fictionalized as the Tamassee River but reportedly based on the Chattooga River) that claims lives in its dangerous white water "hydraulics" and that, in this story, inspires both enemies and valiant protectors. It will stay with me a long time as I reflect on the subtle complexities and potent themes.

This novel was outstanding on so many levels, not the least of which was the riveting plot
May 01, 2009 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I am glad I discovered Ron Rash and plan on reading all his books. This book is based on a true event. A girl's body was trapped in a keeper hydraulic under a ledge on the Chatooga River in South Carolina. It happened while I was working for the USFS.The event pitted the family against the environmentalists who claimed that attempts to retrieve the body violated the Wild and Scenic River Act. It was heartbreaking and dragged on for weeks. It happened not long after JFK, Jr. crashed his plane int ...more
I thought this book's plot was very interesting, but unfortunately it fell flat for me because character development was lacking greatly. Maybe I'm spoiled when it comes to character development because I love to read the classics, but I don't think my expectations are unreasonable. By the end of the book I didn't feel like I knew a single one of the characters well. Then again, every single character in the book was a flat, 2-dimensional character, so maybe not getting to know them wasn't so ba ...more
I read Rash's excellent Serena a year or so ago and was both excited and wary about his earlier books. He is a wonderful stylist, but I worried about becoming disappointed with his earlier books.

I was a little right to worry, but only a little. As in the prior book, he wonderfully evokes Appalachian Carolina. In both books, there is a theme of nature under threat and of pitiful victims. Here the story is as dramatic as in Serena, but on a much smaller scale.

In this book, a visiting girl drowns
This is my second Ron Rash novel, however this book was written long before the first of his I read. No matter, this book is good, it’s just not as powerful and rich as Serena was for me cover to cover. This book is simple in plot, but Rash proves he can take us deeper into each character (but of course mostly the main character) to add depth to his story and a “likeability” as well as “relatability” to each. I just didn’t finish this book with the same intensity, and the story was just moderate ...more
Susan Poling
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! So much so that I read it in 3 days.

When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dangerous precedent. Torn between the two sides is Maggie Glen
Mar 20, 2013 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
Not often do I get to read fiction located in South Carolina, where the words evoke tastes, sounds, and memories quite familiar to me. There seems to be more novelists who write about our northern neighbor. So it was fun to enjoy such a good tale about family relations, painful events, and devotion to protecting wild spaces. Throw in a little romance, journalism, photography. Rash delivers a nice story, fairly well told and easy to read, that captures a little of life in the upstate (and Columbi ...more
This is the first book that I have read by Ron Rash so I have nothing to compare it to with his style of writing. With that said, I liked it. I didn’t love it. I thought the subject was interesting with lots of potential. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I found it lacking. The characters were a slightly unlikable and maybe a bit under developed and I found myself wanting more from them. In fact the whole book could have used about another 100 pages to dive into the plot a little deeper. ...more
Anna Bottcher
The story surrounding the tragedies at the river and the politics surrounding it enthralled me, however the relationship of the narrator and and her partner felt forced from the beginning. The novel still retains the nice small-town Appalachian feel of the rest of Rash's works but I think he tries to write both a romance and small-time political drama into the same story and doesn't fully form either because he concentrates too much on one or the other instead of trying to combine them.

The "rive
Carmen Carroquino
With the novel Saints at the River, I learned about characterization and how a man writing as a female character can seem ingenuine at times. I first read this novel in an ENC 1102 class and while reading it I noticed how the main character Maggie was portrayed. At times it didn't like Ron Rash the author stayed in character with her. It seemed at times that he wrote like a man writing emotions and thoughts for a woman when, as the reader, you're not supposed to notice that. In some scenes where ...more
I cannot begin to imagine how awful it must be to lose a child. To watch that child washed away before your eyes as you stand alone, unable to do anything about it. The first chapter is gut-wrenching in its description of the drowning of Ruth Kowalsky. I could picture her walking into the depths of the river without a thought of the dangers lurking just below the seemingly peaceful surface. Realistic, honest and heartbreaking, this could be a story from anyone's family. A perfect moment too quic ...more
My public library is promoting Ron Rash's Saints at the River because of its setting near Clemson, SC.
I found that the setting minimally held my interest, probably because I've only been a resident for little over a year. Rash's writing style and storytelling was fine, nothing extraordinary but I suspect my standards have increased within the past year. His story was spread too thin; it prodded moral debates on the environment, parent-child relations, dealing with death, and journalism styles.
Gigi Muirheid
I am officially a Ron Rash fan now. I read Serena a few months ago and read this novel because a friend highly recommended it. As with Serena, I loved the local flavor, the descriptions of the South Carolina mountains. The story shares with Serena the conflict between environmental concerns and the all-mighty dollar. The narrator, a journalist who must return to her mountain home where the story unfolds, pulls you into her story immediately; you like her and trust her, and there is romance invol ...more
The conflict between environmentalists and "progress" is most apparent as the major plot centers around the retrieval of a young girl's body from the white water rapids of the Tamassee River. The subplot deals with the narrator's own conflict within herself and with her father. The prose is descriptive and at times lyrical. The weakness of the novel is that it probably does not "reach out and grab" the reader, and perhaps the female voice is not very convincing. It glides, somewhat like a curren ...more
Really good. I'm on a southern lit kick and this made me miss SC. I felt like I was there.
This was an absorbing book although the years-old conflict between the photographer and her father hardly seemed significant enough to dwell upon. I recognize the need to parallel a guilty father/ lost girl relationship but I would have thought a more epic situation could have been devised. I also was disappointed to learn how many aspects of the story were lifted directly from actual events. This made the sub-plots appear that much more weak, as having been shoe-horned in to an otherwise alread ...more
A little girl slips and falls into a wild river on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. Her parents are not locals but they are very wealthy. Her body is wedged under an outcrop in the river and they want it brought up at all costs. Two reporters are sent to cover the story. Why is it a story? Because the river is protected and all the ideas about how to retrieve the little girl's body involve potential harm to the wild water. "River rats" believe they have a duty to protect the water which ...more
When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of a small South Carolina town are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dangerous precedent. Torn between the two sides is Maggie Glenn, a twenty-eight-year-old newspaper photographer who grew up in the town and has been sent to doc ...more
I immediately became immersed in this novel.
Poetic prose, genuine believable characters, layered conflict, exquisite geographical detailing.
This novel gave me a new lens to view "the river" in general. I grew up traveling daily over and through countless bridges and tunnels, fishing as a teen in the spillways of the Monongahela,enjoying a city made unique by intersection of The Three Rivers. I became a victim of the fierce power of rivers in the Nashville Flood of 2010. I have teenage boys
Another author recommended by the librarian who leads the Mystery Novel Book Club in the Wayne Public Library.

This novel also had an extremely strong sense of place, a river and river bank in South Carolina. There is a limited cast of characters, fitting for a novel of only 239 pages. There is also a strong ecological theme to this novel, which would not necessarily lure me in. The characters, setting, and conflicts: man vs. nature and man vs. man lead me to read this novel in a day and a half.

I read this after I read Serena by Ron Rash which I really enjoyed. This book describes a small South Carolina town that is thrown into national news after a river accident. Rash has a regional voice that makes this an authentic picture of the area.
Christina Cuff
Moved slow, was slightly disappointed that it stopped where it did... Really wish it had gone more in depth, but very good imagery.

The book deals with a photographer and a journalist who travel to her hometown to cover a dispute- rescue the remains of a drowned tourist or preserve a National Wildlife watershed as dictated by federal law. People are torn- let the family take the remains of their daughter home for a proper burial vs disturbing this river's natural habitat will set a precedent and
He mentions a couple of singers I like and my favorite author, too.
Kristian Wilson
Ron Rash's Saints at the River opens with the death of a young tourist in one of South Carolina's wild and scenic rivers. Ruth Kowalsky's parents begin a campaign to defy laws governing the river in order to retrieve their daughter's corpse from a dangerous eddy. From there, the situation turns into an even on both local and national levels, one in which people from all walks of life find a stake.

Rash weaves together political relationships at multiple levels--family, small town, state, and nati
Reading this after recently finishing Serena reminded me of how fantastic Ron Rash actually is as an author. I loved Serena and its multitude of intense layers and rich plot. But this text took me back to my first encounter with Rash's novels, The Cove. Both The Cove and Saints at the River are simple on the surface - easy to follow, quick reads - but despite their outward appearance, they are incredibly deep and as complex as his denser work.
This book is an emotional journey. It explores values
This is the fourth book I've read by this author, two of which I've given 4 stars and two (including this one that I've given 3). They are all somewhat alike...southern, nature, fairly short and fast reads, and mostly quite interesting. He apparently also excels with short stories and poetry.
This one centers around the Tamassee River in South Carolina and pits environmentalists against people wanting to rescue first one and then two bodies from the river; they were caught up in what they call t
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Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist and New York Times bestselling novel, Serena, in addition to three other prizewinning novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; three collections of poems; and four collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other St ...more
More about Ron Rash...
Serena The Cove One Foot in Eden Burning Bright: Stories The World Made Straight

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“Not for the first time, it occurred to me that sorrow could be purified into song the same way a piece of coal is purified into a diamond.” 0 likes
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