Kathleen Gilroy's Reviews > Serena

Serena by Ron Rash
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's review
Dec 17, 08

I found this book on one of the Times best-of-the-year recommendations and blazed through it (even though I left the library copy at O'Hare and had to buy the hardback which will now go back to the library to replace the book I lost.)

It has the aura of a morality play about the consequences of unchecked capitalism and its brute destruction of the environment and people. The novel is set in a logging camp at the beginning of the depression. Pemberton, the owner, has married Serena, whom he has know but briefly from a trip to Boston. The book open with a murder -- Pemberton kills the father of the mother of his unborn son -- a child born of an affair with a kitchen worker.

The conditions at the lumber camp are grizzly and brutal. Men are killed in industrial accidents and by rattlesnakes. A panther is reputed to remain in the mountains (the setting is the Smokies of North Carolina). Gilded age barons are seeking to protect the forest and form a national park. But the Pembertons will stop at nothing to clear every last log from their land.

A good read. Timely. Highly recommended.

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