Not since Ben Ames Williams’ gripping novel, Leave Her To Heaven, have we encountered a sinister female sociopath capable of chilling and frightening readers. But now there is Serena, the main character in Ron Rash's latest novel. In 1929, during the depression, newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton move to the Appalachians of North Carolina to build a logging empire. Serena, the Lady Macbeth of this stirring novel, proves herself to be the equal of any man in the camp. She is also without conscience when it comes to ruthless killing or vanquishing anyone who crosses or displeases her. This is a character you can not turn away from. It is impossible to like anything about the woman, but like the proverbial train wreck, you can not look away or quit reading. The character could have gone over the top or she could have mellowed, but in Mr. Rash's brilliant hand, she jumps off the page, and mesmerizes you. When Serena learns she is barren, she sets out to murder George's illegitimate child and their intense, passionate marriage then begins to unravel. From there the story catapults to a shocking reckoning.
This is a lushly rich and compelling study of greed and lust in the search for wealth and power. Some of the issues in the book are as relevant as today's headlines, such as conservation and national parks. Mr. Rash's masterful balance of beauty and violence create a riveting novel of devoted love offset by great betrayals.