Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"'s Reviews > Serena

Serena by Ron Rash
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Jan 25, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: did-not-work-for-me, all-fiction

I read the first 90 pages of this book and couldn't continue. The writing is excellent, quite impressive, really. But when each chapter brought a new form of cruelty to animals, I had to stop.
Bashing in a raccoon's skull with an axe...Starving a captive eagle to bend it to your will...Baiting a field with corn and apples so you can shoot twelve deer and a bear for sport, then just leave them all piled in the middle of the field to rot after you've killed them...Are you sickened yet? I found myself distressed and in tears and I knew it was time to quit.

I can be fair and go with two stars instead of one because the writing and storytelling is good, but I don't think it was necessary to include that much brutality toward innocent creatures.
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Comments (showing 1-35 of 35) (35 new)

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message 1: by Jill (new)

Jill I felt the same way. Put it down after about 100 pages. In fact, the writing didn't even captivate me that much.


message 2: by Jeanette (last edited Jan 26, 2011 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I wouldn't say the writing captivated me, but I thought it was good for a first novel. He did a great job of making me hate the evil characters. I just couldn't hang on to see how many more creative ways he could think of to hurt or kill animals. :(

Later: huh! Just did some noodling around, and I guess this was NOT his first novel, so I'm even less impressed.


message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill Jeanette, this wasn't his first novel. Ron Rash has been around for awhile and has a relatively good reputation. I'm finding it harder and harder to read books with graphic scenes on animal abuse. Couldn't finish this one.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I was posting my edit at the same time as you. :)


message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill I just read and reviewed Extra Indians. There is a VERY graphic description of a bear killing. BUT, this took place during the Vietnam War and was used for a precise reason: to show how dehumanized the characters had gotten. All too many authors are using animal abuse just for gratitious reasons. I can't stomach that.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I can grit my teeth through one or two instances in a book for authenticity, but not the constant barrage like in Serena.


message 7: by Sylwia (new)

Sylwia Thank you for your review. I was going to purchase this book as it is only 99p for kindle at the moment but decided to check the reciews here first. I find it really hard to read about animal abuse and even that 99p would be a waste of money. You saved me from finding out myself that this book is not for me.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" You are very welcome, Sylwia. Glad to have saved you the time and money, and especially to have spared you the discomfort of reading about the abuse.


message 9: by Kgrover (new)

Kgrover I just hated this book and couldn't quite put my finger on why, you may have nailed it for me. I cringed when I read the part about piling up deer carcasses and I also hated the treatment of the eagle.


message 10: by Sharla (new)

Sharla This book is the October selection in my book group. So glad I read your review before trying it. I know I would not enjoy reading it so you have saved me some time and anguish. I can't stand cruelty to animals either!


message 11: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Thanks for this info. I'm sorry you had to endure this. I especially appreciate knowing this since I work as a bookseller. Customers frequently tell me they like books about animals but absolutley nothing sad. I would have felt horrible had this book caused pain through my hands.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I have discovered through my time on Good Reads that there are a lot of readers even more sensitive than I am about portrayal of animal cruelty, so it's definitely something you want to mention to potential readers.


message 13: by Jacque (new)

Jacque Hodges (Carter) Thanks, Jeanette, for the heads up. I'll give this one a pass.


message 14: by Nick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nick Don't you think the treatment of animals is a reflection of the way the entire environment, especially people and trees, are treated by those with power? I think that is one of the author's main messages.


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Absolutely agree, Nick, but it was overdone. I've read other books that convey that message with more nuance and less graphic representation.


Michele So glad I read this review before opening this book. Having just finished The Cove, I was looking forward to reading more by this author, but I can't handle animal cruelty in any fashion - real life or fiction. Back to the library it goes. Thank you, Jeanette!


Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Michele, I went into The Cove with some trepidation, fearing it might be like this one, but the only sad animal thing was the shooting of the birds. Realistic, but not overdone.


message 18: by Michele (last edited Oct 21, 2012 10:54AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Michele Jeanette, I felt the same about The Cove. I've just started Saints at the River and am enjoying it so far, find the writing style similar to The Cove. I'm not sure why Serena was so different and I'm glad so many liked that one, to each their own, right?


message 19: by Carol (new)

Carol Having just read your review, I've decided to delete this book from my queue. I cannot read about animal cruelty. Thanks for the heads up.


message 20: by Gregory (new) - added it

Gregory Irrelevant and inappropriate. This is a work of fiction. The killing of animals is a plot device. Get a grip.


message 21: by Jacque (new)

Jacque Hodges (Carter) It most certainly is a plot device, but I get enough unsolicited cruelty and violence just listening to the news that I am glad I can choose to forgo it when I'm reading for pleasure.


message 22: by Margo (new) - added it

Margo Jeanette, did you read the whole book? Even though I did think the animal abuse hard to read through, I pushed through it. I thought this was an excellent book. The ending was great


message 23: by Katy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy Chamberlain I don't know if you realize this or not but this book wasn't set in modern times. People have to hunt for food to live (your worries about shooting the deer). They couldn't just go down to the store and buy an already dead chicken. Hunting was necessary for their survival. Also, I agree I thought it got a little gory at times but I'm glad the author didn't try to sugar coat the hunting and killing then you wouldn't have understood as much, like what the characters went through. I assure you the author is not an animal abuser nor wants to be that's just how times were back then whether you're happy about it or not.


message 24: by Katy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy Chamberlain I don't know if you realize this or not but this book wasn't set in modern times. People have to hunt for food to live (your worries about shooting the deer). They couldn't just go down to the store and buy an already dead chicken. Hunting was necessary for their survival. Also, I agree I thought it got a little gory at times but I'm glad the author didn't try to sugar coat the hunting and killing then you wouldn't have understood as much, like what the characters went through. I assure you the author is not an animal abuser nor wants to be that's just how times were back then whether you're happy about it or not.


message 25: by Larry (new)

Larry I will give this a pass. I understand that novels must have some dark moments, but I read to be edified, and for the enjoyment. I don't need to depressed by too many gory details. Authors who flesh out their short stories by abusing flesh lack creativity.


message 26: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Rynerson Thanks for the animal cruelty comments. I am very sensitive to this and will not be reading this book now.


Alexis I had a lot of trouble getting through that too but honestly I feel, once reading the whole book, the story wouldn't have been the same without it. The animal cruelty is like the precurser. You know how they say a lot of serial killers started out killing small animals... yeah well that's the case with this book. It veers from the animals and moves onto people. Which is twisted but I had read the book would be twisted so I knew what I was getting into. It was somewhat refreshing to see a truly evil character fleshed out and made real. That's what made me love this book and also what makes it truly messed up.


message 28: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Thank you for this review. I can appreciate dark characters and evil deeds (Gone Girl, yes please!), but brutality towards animals isn't something I can stomach. Water for Elephants had me sobbing (book and movie) and it leaves me feeling ill for hours. Do I understand that different time periods had different mentalities on hunting and treatment of animals? Of course. Do I understand that some people don't mind reading about animal cruelty as a plot device? Sure. But when I'm reading for personal enjoyment, I just don't want to deal with it. And that's ok. So thank you for letting readers know about this so that we can choose another book :)


message 29: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Stevens briggs Thank you for letting me know about the animals. I don't like to read books with animal cruelty or even an animal dying. I think they should have "Animal lover advisory" stickers. I'll be skipping this book. Thanks!


Christina Test It may have been said already but I want to point out two things with the two scenarios that I've seen be the focus of this thread. 1- the deer/bear : This story is set way before PETA. Way before endangered was a thing. Back just shortly after the time when purple would hang out the train windows and shoot buffalo where they stood just to say they did. The hunting for sport in this book is not historical inaccurate. It shows the thinking of the times well for the rich. Although the senselessness of the situation is that it is depression era and the workers would have probably collected that meat for the camp in reality. 2-the raccoon: obviously the people complaining about the raccoon being killed did not live on a farm...ever. The animal was stealing the eggs that Rachel and her son needed to survive. Sometimes when faced with a situation concerning survival you do what it takes. This was not senseless violence and she even considered letting it go but knew she couldn't. I just think some people are so quick to jump on the pc bandwagon that they forget what our history is. You can't change it. And sometimes you make a decision.


message 31: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Dutko Wow I am so so glad I read your review before buying this book. The animal cruelty would have completely ruined the book for me and left me feeling sick to my stomach.


Weston High School Library The animal cruelty is just one of many forms of slash and burn violence in this book-violence on the land, water, earth, people....


message 33: by Bev (new) - rated it 1 star

Bev I agreed with you about the animals, but was baffled that you did not comment on the cruelty to people as well. Perhaps it was wise that you didn't read any further. It was worse as it went along. I also refused to finish it.


message 34: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Thanks for the heads up re animal cruelty. Can't read this, no way!!


message 35: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Sharring totally with you, jeanette. am having a a very hard time with the animal cruelty. not loving this book at all.


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