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The World Made Straight

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,770 Ratings  ·  220 Reviews
Travis Shelton is seventeen the summer he wanders into the woods onto private property outside his North Carolina hometown, discovers a grove of marijuana large enough to make him some serious money, and steps into the jaws of a bear trap. After hours of passing in and out of consciousness, Travis is discovered by Carlton Toomey, the wise and vicious farmer who set the tra ...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Picador (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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No Name
Just before starting this I read a review that complained that this book was too much like an After School Special. (Remember those?). Naturally I started to get concerned.

Now that I'm finished I can say that I don't agree. Although this is a coming-of-age story there is no fluff and no happy endings. It does not focus too much on gritty aspects but after reading Tobacco Road I needed a more mellow book to balance out somewhat.

The characters are well-developed, flawed, and nuanced. Rash is a ma
Bob Redmond
Jul 07, 2009 Bob Redmond rated it it was ok
Rash's novel tells the story of a wayward kid in North Carolina trying to get on his feet. The kid flirts with drugs, alcohol, crime, girls, guns, and has family troubles to boot. He is helped by an older guy who has troubles of his own. The whole saga is set against a backdrop of Civil War history, with some asides on the nature of violence courtesy Simone Weil.

The book reads like a tame "after school special." The characters, let alone the dialogue, are barely believable, and Rash's writing se
Dec 13, 2014 Shaun rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Like several of Rash's other novels, The World Made Straight is based on one of his short stories. The others I've read have all been successes. This one, not so much.

While the writing was competent, the story too often felt forced and contrived.

In addition, Rash's efforts to develop the Civil War theme, which focused on the struggle between two Southern factions (literally neighbor fighting neighbor), failed. Instead of adding to the story, it became a distraction. Furthermore, the plot was on
May 09, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Radiant, devastating and compelling. Beautifully written...
Sean Owen
Mar 15, 2015 Sean Owen rated it liked it
Disclaimer: I think Ron Rash is one of the greatest living short story writers in America.

Some writers seem to be able to bring their skills to whatever they set down to write. Russell Banks has produced several notable short stories and yet also managed to produce the 700+ page historical fiction masterpiece "Cloudsplitter" A writer like Rash with an impressive resume of short fiction stumbles so often in his novels that it's hard to believe you're reading the same author. I've read "The Cove"
Feb 26, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
It had been awhile since I dipped into my Ron Rash collection and am so glad I did. Rash writes about the Southern rural poor with language that brings to life not only the gritty underside of day-to-day life but also the beauty of the country, while weaving in a good bit of Southern history.

This 2006 book could be described in a variety of ways. With respect to 17 year old Travis, it is a coming of age story. With respect to mid-30's Leonard, it is a coming to terms story. Both come at huge co
Claudia Putnam
Feb 07, 2016 Claudia Putnam rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is a good novel to read right now. It certainly doesn't address racism in the South, but it does address the supposed legacy of honor and tradition in the Confederacy by examining how neighbor turned on neighbor in mountain counties which were often intensely divided on the subject of secession. Apparently, once the Confederacy was established, massacres of dissenting communities by their former friends and even relatives were common, and the present-day legacy of one such event is at the c ...more
Anna Hakopian t (-_-t)
I have no regrets reading this book because I never knew I was emotionally attached to it until the end. I was mean to this book in the beginning. I expected drug fights and gunfire like Breaking Bad but instead got two young people who change their lives for the better. Sadly this change was too good to be true so the end kind of a twist for me. It was good but I almost teared up at work which would worry a lot of people. It's got a lot of heart. I wish I can make a formal review for this book ...more
Oct 05, 2013 Kathrina rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
I love reading the works of poets turned to novelists, and this one doesn't disappoint. The imagery and Appalachian landscape are wrought thoughtfully and are deeply felt. The story itself is tragic. Through the POV of a young man still defining his own life, we glimpse laterally the life of a man who has allowed circumstances to direct his fate, and not until his final moment does he choose his own action. It saves the life of our POV, but it ends his. He is a hero, but tragically, his heroism ...more
May 02, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it
Another riveting work by my new favorite Appalachian writer - Ron Rash. As I read 'The World Made Straight,' I kept thinking that this story would make a great movie. Lo and behold, I just found out today that not only is this novel being made into a film, but so is 'Serena,' which will co-star none other than "Katniss" herself, Jennifer Lawrence! (Brad Cooper will play Pemberton, which I think is all wrong - he's not burly enough - but, I digress.) And, to get back to 'The World Made Straight,' ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Donna rated it really liked it
I wasn't so sure I was going to like this one. The subject didn't really draw me. THEN, I started reading and enjoyed it very much. This is another book by the author I have been reading for the last few weeks. I have one more to go.

The story takes place in the present set in the backwoods of North Carolina near the border of Tennessee.
Ron Rash knows his people and the struggles that go on in mountain cultures.

The young teen in the book has had a hard life on a tobacco farm and sees a way to m
Robert Warren
Mar 17, 2011 Robert Warren rated it liked it
When we were teens in Atlanta, my brother was a wayward hellraiser with a head full of ideas. Even though we were modern kids, the shadows of the Civil War still touched us in various enigmatic ways. He and I agree that very few artists have captured that essence, but he said Ron Rash nailed some of it in World Made Straight. He also said Rash created a character that reminded him of his teen self. So I was eager to check it out. My brother sent it to me.

It's a lovely, unusual book, told in a co
Jan 05, 2015 LeAnne rated it really liked it
The images this guy brings to mind are just gorgeous. While I didn't feel the same attachment to any of the characters, except one, that I did in "Serena" and in "Eden," the old journal entries and the beautiful gospel voice of one of them grabbed me tight. The settings for his tales, however, show off Rash's powerful poetry, full blast.

An example? While describing a type of rare and colorful brook trout and a stream in winter, Rash writes: "..a dark, silent place down there, it's metabolism slo
Jan 03, 2008 Felix rated it really liked it
This is a good coming-of-age book with local flavor for me, since it takes place in the North Carolina mountains not far from my home in Chattanooga. Woven into the narrative are some facts about the Civil War, which is another interest of mine.

The central character, Travis Shelton, comes to terms with the grim realities of his own life, with the extra dimension of historical influences he discovers with the help of an unlkely mentor, disgraced teacher Leonard Shuler, now dealing drugs from a d
May 28, 2014 Tori rated it really liked it
The best books come from Malaprop's :) I love Ron Rash novels and this one was even better getting to read it while we were camping in the county it was set in.
Kate Gray
Aug 16, 2015 Kate Gray rated it really liked it
Such a beautifully written book. Ron Rash is brilliant in many ways. Some predictability made it a 4 for me, would be willing to give it a 4.5...
May 01, 2013 Jim rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Perhaps not as good as some of his other books, but an enjoyable story nevertheless, and Rash is rapidly climbing up in the ranks of my favorite authors. I like his pace and voice, and the fact that he describes a world I am more familiar with than many books I read. All of the characters are deeply flawed, kind of like the people who inhabited the area and fought a vicious civil war within the Civil War in the Appalachians. The characters are not one dimensional though and have some depth. With ...more
Barksdale Penick
Jan 23, 2012 Barksdale Penick rated it really liked it
I found this to be a very well told tale, with quite a number of really interesting and well developed characters. There is a parallel set of sequences set in the same region of North Carolina during the Civil War; I did not find these to be well integrated into the plot, and in fact found the author's links between the old and new somewhat contrived. But I really enjoyed the Civil War scenes on thier own. Meanwhile the main tale is quite believable in its depiction of humans as as mix of good a ...more
May 06, 2012 Vicki rated it liked it
I wouldn't recommend this one to a new Ron Rash reader. I really liked it because of the setting and the setting being so close to my parents home in the mountains. It also took place at the time that we first moved there. It is scary to think such things went on but they really probably did. Did I say scary? Yes..Ron does such a good job describing the events that at times I got queasy. It is a dark book about what appear to be hopeless circumstances. I am glad I read it but for those reasons I ...more
Linda C.
Apr 13, 2016 Linda C. rated it liked it
Travis Shelton is by all accounts a typical teenage boy. While fishing for speckled trout in his out of the way spot, he comes across what appears to be unattended marijuana plants and helps himself. He sells them to Leonard, the local drug dealer, who lives a quiet life in a rundown trailer outside of town. Travis sees easy money and goes back for more, only this time he's caught by the Toomeys, owners of the plants.

The chain of events lands Travis in a heap of trouble. Leonard takes him in wh
Jan 01, 2016 Sherry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: appalachia
I don't typically read fiction, but I wanted to read The World Made Straight because author Ron Rash added a disclaimer that the Shelton Laurel Massacre was based on truth. I am fascinated with accounts of the Civil War Massacre because nearly half of the victims were ancestors of mine. The author did an excellent job of weaving a story of good versus evil including history and current relationships. This is a book that isn't finished once you've read it. I didn't put it down and walk away - poi ...more
Robert Jacoby
Oct 23, 2015 Robert Jacoby rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-favorites
The world made as straight as you can...

Up front: I'm a big fan of Ron Rash. His style, his craft, his storytelling. When I read this man I learn from this man.

That said, I realize that this book will not be to everyone's liking. Some have pointed out the slow pace in the middle. Others, the unsatisfying ending. I won't give any spoilers here. Suffice to say:

This book is Ron Rash the modern Southern gothic writer. Place means all and is all. Land mattes. Your people matter. What stock you come f
Jul 28, 2015 Kara rated it it was ok
Sorry, but I did not care for this book. It was just not believable. Leonard is a bright young man who works to get an education, leaves the state, has a family and a teaching career, but when he loses his teaching credential, he is "destined" to end up back in the holler as a drug pusher in a dilapidated trailer? But Leonard is actually a smart guy, so he listens to Handel and reads history while selling beer to teenagers and letting some drug-addled local slut live in the back room.

The interw
Elizabeth-Ann Diehl
Apr 30, 2014 Elizabeth-Ann Diehl rated it liked it
Summary: Set in western North Carolina, The World Made Straight is a coming of age story about Travis Shelton, a seventeen year old boy unsure of his purpose or goal in life. Throughout the book, Travis faces many challenges. He struggles to get along with his abusive father, to make money legally, to maintain a healthy relationship, and to avoid drugs and alcohol (especially under peer pressure). After a series of unfortunate events, Travis meets Leonard Shuler, a former high school teacher who ...more
Mar 24, 2015 Bobbi rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, appalachia
I never know quite what to make of Ron Rash's books. I live right where this story takes place so that's always a bit distracting. He gets a few of his facts wrong; for example, he didn't mention that the Shelton Laurel massacre was actually about stealing salt. And the eastern continental divide does not come through the county. But besides that, his stories seem to lack a point. Yes, it's a coming of age story, and a story about life in a southern county, but they don't seem to have much to do ...more
Sharon Powers
Jan 19, 2015 Sharon Powers rated it really liked it
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.
If you would like to see this review with all the wonderful images that go with it, please stop by my blog at:

It was reported that on, "Jan. 18, 1863, troops from the 64th North Carolina Infantry under the command of Lt. Col. James Keith lined up 13 men and boys, ranging in age from 13 to 60, made them kneel and shot them at point-blank range." One of the captured was a 13-year-old b
Kasa Cotugno
Jun 13, 2010 Kasa Cotugno rated it liked it
Shelves: awards-winners
Ron Rash epitomizes the new southern writer, one writing about a south still showing the scars of the War Between the States from a deeper perspective. This novel is grounded in its portrayal of characters rooted in specific time and place, written without irony, old fashioned story telling, but uneven in its pacing. There were sections that took my breath away, and others that I had to struggle with to keep going.
Jan 20, 2015 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The World Made Straight" is a powerful and moving story set in the mountains of western North Carolina. The characters feel authentic, being a mix of good and bad as all real people are. Having finished my teen years in a rural environment during the same time period, I felt resonance with the situations and the people. The author does a nice job of weaving together the struggles and conflicts the main characters are experiencing with the Civil War conflicts their ancestors experienced over a h ...more
Claire Fullerton
Aug 27, 2016 Claire Fullerton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
There's a good reason the Atlanta Journal Constitution called Ron Rash “One of the major writers of our time.” To me, he is this and more. Ron Rash writes in a gritty, mountain vernacular that can’t be faked; one has to come from it and know it as their own voice of consciousness in order to wield it as plausibly as he. Rash’s language, therefore, is its own reasoning; it speaks of a clear-cut, hard-edged, uncompromising way of living in the world devoid of the illusion of optimism. One wonders ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
I hate to sound like a broken record, but Ron Rash is one helluva good writer! The World Made Straight is a novel that you simply can't put down once started. It is fast-paced and relentlessly grim reading. An interesting blend of modern life in the mountain country of western North Carolina and of the historical Shelton Laurel Massacre that occurred in 1864 in that same part of North Carolina during the Civil War. While a classic tale of good vs. evil, this is also a coming of age story of a yo ...more
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Contemporary YA: The World Made Straight (book v. movie) 1 13 Jan 11, 2015 10:25AM  
2 books in one 1 13 Dec 23, 2008 04:22PM  
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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
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“Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates. Those who use it and those who endure it are turned to stone… a soul which has entered the province of force will not escape this except by a miracle.” 2 likes
“The worst thing the nineteen sixties did to this country was introduce drugs to rednecks,” 2 likes
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