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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  34,101 ratings  ·  4,302 reviews
The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, eve ...more
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,101 ratings  ·  4,302 reviews

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Will Byrnes
"I think this is what the end of the world will be like," McIntyre said, and none among them raised his voice to disagree.
In the primeval woods of North Carolina, young timber baron, George Pemberton, brings his bride, Serena, to live with him in his kingdom. He had been busy enough already, fathering a child with a local girl and clear-cutting wide swaths of land. Serena quickly establishes herself as a power in her own right, knowledgeable about the timber business from her family backgro
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
i am alarmed that i only wrote a four-line review of this amazing book. now that i am starting to read the cove, i figure now is as good a time as any to remind this website just how good ron rash is, and how so far, serena is the best of them. (i am only on page 15 of the cove, so this could change)

whenever i try to hand-sell this at work, i will usually just say: "it is like macbeth in a logging community. with a greek chorus." which as a customer, i would hear and think, "i must read this boo
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Since joining the southern literary trail group on goodreads, I have discovered many gifted authors who I normally would not have considered. It is in this regard that I was lead to the works of Ron Rash, a literature professor at Western Carolina university. Rash has won multiple awards for his novels, and I decided on Serena as the first of his novels to read.

George and Serena Pemberton are timber barons from Boston who have set up a logging camp in western North Carolina. Set in 1929 in the
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
“A kind of annihilation, was what Serena called their coupling, and though Pemberton would never have thought to describe it that way, he knew her words had named the thing exactly.”

 photo Serena_zps13ip4d23.jpg
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence play the power couple in the 2015 movie.

George Pemberton brought back a wife from Boston. More than a wife, more of a force of nature as dangerous as a witch and as pretty as an angel. He feels stronger with her by his side, and though never a man lacking in confidence, that
J.L.   Sutton
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Image result for serena movie

I really like strong female heroines and Ron Rash’s Serena delivers on that. You might not like her, but the novel’s title character is capable, resourceful and ruthlessly ambitious. I also enjoyed how Rash used the battle to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (early environmentalists versus timber interests in the late 1920s) to frame his fictional story. As was the case with The Cove (a Ron Rash novel I read in the spring), I was continually impressed with Rash’s writing; his descr
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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 mys
I am constantly seeking out books with a Macbeth type theme. Unfortunately that is reeeeeaaaallly hard- There are not that many. :(

I also love unlikable characters in fiction- and I adore evil soulmates...because eventually evil people "in love" will turn on one another...and THAT is when things get interesting. One will always be more evil than the other...

 photo serenareview3_zpsezigpn9x.jpg

1929- Waynesville, North Carolina-

Newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains- where George sho
Amalia Gkavea
The reviews I had read prior to my reading this novel were very polarized. Many loved it, many hated it. The impression it left me lies somewhere in the middle.

Ron Rash's prose is beautiful. It is realistic and earthy, but not raw or unpolished and it helps you visualize the harsh Appalachian landscape, full of lore and superstitions, which is slowly falling prey to the needs of the developing, modern world. The heart of the novel is Serena, a deeply flawed, mysterious heroine that bends eagles
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Beautiful descriptions and a great storyline. I don't like the title now that I have finished reading it but I think that is sort of the point and I'm not saying I know a better one. Ron Rash did a wonderful job of making the reader hate the characters that were to be hated, and also feel pity for those that were to be pitied. ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“You men notice so little. Physical strength is your gender’s sole advantage.”

Allow me to introduce you to Serena . . . . .

Aint’ she sweet?

Serena has moved to North Carolina to start a new life with her husband, the owner of a timber company . . . .

(Don’t worry – this ain’t a kissing book.) Upon arrival, Serena proves she’s not your average Depression era rich bitch lady of leisure. She wears pants, lives in camp with th
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
Set in the early 1930's in the forests nestled in the shadows of the North Carolina mountains.  I had consciously avoided this novel, the timber industry holding no appeal since my misbegotten foray into Annie Proulx's Barkskins territory.  This was not that.  At all.  Five stars, no contest.  The first thing I did upon finishing this book was to hand it over to my husband.  Ignore the cover and the title, you're going to want to read this! ...more
reading is my hustle
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wicked good storytelling.

Love to see the "power hungry female" fleshed out and OWNING it. Truly unlikeable character(s) in actions and deeds. Business partner not agree with your vision? Hunting accident. Disloyalty? Make an example out of him. The courageous and altruistic? SO DEAD. Strip and rape the land, too. Then move onto another country. Repeat.

Wow. Just wow.
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strong, resourceful young women are enjoying the spotlight these days in popular fiction. There are enough of them that Jennifer Lawrence can’t possibly play them all in movie versions. Serena qualifies for the club with her street smarts (or its Appalachian equivalent), her initiative, and her poise in the face of danger. Too bad she’s also a bloodthirsty, bad-to-the-bone sociopath.

She and her husband George Pemberton are Depression-era timber barons in North Carolina. We’re introduced to them
Mar 08, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If this had been the first work by Ron Rash I had read, I do not think I would have gone on to continue to read Ron Rash. The story was OK and I read it in one day…I suppose that is evidence that it must have interested me, and it did…but again. Not sure I would read him again because there were a number of plot lines left unanswered in this long novel.

To wit regarding unanswered plot lines, and the first one is the most important:
• What bug did Serena have up her ass to be so cold-blooded? So
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, ebook, reviewed
Not much to say about that one from me. Well-paced, set in North Caroline during the great depression story depictures title charackter who, alongside with her husband, is to create a timber empire. I thought the novel was very well written, with great sense of time and place but unfortunately the main protagonist left me unimpressed.

Comparisons to Steinbeck’s or McCarthy’s epic novels feel a bit exaggerated to me. Serena lacks that truth and depth and dark essence flowing through novels of men
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
This novel nicely fits into the Southern Gothic genre. The setting is the mountains of western North Carolina. The main characters and many less important players are corrupt, violent and villainous.

Serena is a strong, intelligent woman; she is also a sociopath. She is the female equivalent of John Boyne's character Maurice Swift. Both are ruthless personalities that are fascinating to read about but not ones you would care to have as acquaintances.

Serena and her husband George Pemberton own and
Carmel Hanes
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful character study of a woman we all hope never to meet in real life. I've seen lots of despicable male characters in novels, but it's more rare to find a woman that's so easy to despise.

"The most beautiful creatures are so often the most injurious. The tiger, for instance, or the black widow spider."
"I would argue that's part of their beauty," Serena said."

"Pardon me." he said. "I should never have doubted your knowledge of venom."

Statements that capture the inner nature of an outsid
Warning! If you do not like ruthless, greedy and revengeful characters, you will not like the story of timber magnates Serena and George Pemberton as they are the epitome of evil to everyone and everything they touch. Set in 1929 North Carolina, they proceed to strip the land with disregard to the environment, treatment of animals or anyone who gets in their way. Starts out with a bang and has a thrilling ending!

Update: March 28, 2015

Holy Crap!.....just watched the movie.....Be prepared for

Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Probably one of the most evil women characters that I've read about. The thing is you can't look have to see what Serena is going to do next. Set in North Carolina before the Great Smokey Mtns. became a state park. Tells the story of greed and what some people will do to see their means to an end. Wonderful book filled with characters that will stay with you. ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Serena is a slow burn of a novel brimming with darkness and intrigue.

It's 1929 in Waynesville, NC and plowing trees for timber is a booming industry. The Pemberton's reign supreme and negotiage one deal after another to claim the top spot. Serena especially brings an extra layer of female power by leading the men, wearing pants! and training a pet eagle to hunt rattlesnakes. She is one of the most developed characters, I've ever met in a book and I couldn't get enough of her conniving and brutal
Nov 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I would give this three & a half stars if I had that option. Sadly, I do not. I feel a bit shmuckish for not enjoying this book more than I did, and after some serious pondering I have come to the conclusion that I would probably have loved this book if I had a Y chromosome.


It's not that it isn't entertaining. I just couldn't really get myself to give two craps about any of the characters. And I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to find any of it realistic. (I mean, seriously? They
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Howard
I found it unfortunate to be reading a copy with the movie cover, as I couldn’t help seeing the depicted actors in their Pemberton roles as I read. I recently saw Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone and she’s wonderful, but Bradley Cooper? I’ll refrain from giving my opinion on him.

Early on I wasn’t sure this book was for me, but I’m glad I continued. I ended up appreciating many of its elements, including the Greek chorus of workers. I had to warm up to it, though; maybe that had something to do
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-said
Did you ever read the right book at the wrong time? Such is my Serena.

On the heels of my previous read, a forever favourite,The Secret History, still occupying way too many rooms in my head, this one felt barren, almost raw, like no one threw a rug on the floor. It all happens hard and fast.

In 1929 newlyweds George and Serena travel from Boston to the North Carolina Mountains where they plan to harvest timber and create an empire. The terrain is relentless, the characters rough and tumble and t
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
My first book by this author and possibly not the best one for me to have started with. I am going straight down the middle on whether I liked it or not!

The writing was beautiful, the background interesting and informative and the story was frequently tense and exciting. However the characters were awful, Serena in particular. A really nasty and amoral woman married to an equally unpleasant man. Nothing to like there. Also I have a history of not enjoying books where bad things happen to animal
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brian by: Anthony Vacca
A beautifully crafted novel of a 20th century Lady Macbethian protagonist with eyes on the world's timber, starting in rural North Carolina. Rash paints a vivid picture of a lumber camp and utilizes the sawyers perfectly as the Greek chorus element in the story. The author also has a deft hand at creating characters - both male and female - even minor actors in the story have the heft of an author who knows the craft. The coda presented a plausible and fine ending, but I would have enjoyed the b ...more
Dec 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
I'm glad so many people loved this book because I certainly didn't. Early on I suspected that Serena was an escapee from Ayn Rand. I also pegged her as a really nasty piece of work--amoral, megalomaniac--take your pick. It's not hard to guess how the story will unfold but by page 185 hardly anything has happened (except my loathing for this book). The characters seem stereotyped and wooden. For a Southern book, descriptions of the landscape and terrain are pathetic. Very odd because if this book ...more
LeAnne: GeezerMom
EDIT: Y'all, this is on sale for $1.99 today!!! GET IT!!!!
Serena is wickedly good! I first read this dark adventure back in 2009 and have read and listened to it twice since then (TIP: the audio version is not very well done.. read it the old fashioned way). I even built a literary scavenger hunt based on the book out in the dark woods behind my house - moonshine, snakes, a bone-handled knife, and Paris Green rat poison all came into play. Finally, I'm writing a review - six years late!

First off
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I developed another Rash. This one took me back to the mountains of North Carolina. However, instead of meeting the good-hearted people of The Cove, I was introduced to some of the most ruthless characters in literature.

Serena and George Pemberton have never met a living creature (human, animal, or plant) they do not wish to dominate (or destroy) for their own gain. With an element of suspense, Rash weaves a tale of ambition gone awry.

Highly recomended for fans of southern literature, those who
Carl Orff’s famous 1937 composition Carmina Burana opens with the epic ‘O Fortuna’. It’s so enormous, spectacular, all-encompassing that the listener can scarcely breathe. The tension and power lead to flights of imagination such that the music inhabits the soul.

Maestro Marin Allsop tells us Carmina Burana is “all about fate and fortune and how that impacts our lives, and also the hushed quality after this enormous opening. You know, suddenly, let me tell you a secret. Come closer.”

Oh, but what
Nov 09, 2014 marked it as to-read
(We saw the movie version yesterday. I present this short scene for your amusement; unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that my recollection is perfect.)


Sex me up now
Give me a slinky negligée to wear
That doth expose my boobs; I'll eagles tame
And bid them bring to me fresh rattlesnakes;
Bribe senators; hew down all Birnam Wood
Taking the logs by rail to Dunsinane;
If any man should dare oppose my will
My trusty vassal shall dispatch him straight
With his good switchblade. Ayn, lend me
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****SPOILER*** Help me please with the ending! 3 82 Sep 15, 2015 03:37PM  
Extended family? 2 30 Sep 07, 2015 06:50AM  
Serena the MOVIE ###SPOILERS## 7 97 Sep 07, 2015 06:49AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Serena by Ron Rash 1 17 May 26, 2015 04:31PM  
Crazy for Young A...: Serena by Ron Rash → Start Date: February 18th, 2015 30 51 Mar 10, 2015 09:39PM  

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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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