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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  33,351 ratings  ·  4,217 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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Brandi Price The writing style is suited for young adults because the characters are underdeveloped and it lacks strong themes or ideas. It is action oriented. The…moreThe writing style is suited for young adults because the characters are underdeveloped and it lacks strong themes or ideas. It is action oriented. There is mild sexual imagery throughout the book. It is not great writing like you find in the classics. It is probably your run of the mill contemporary novel. Not outstanding or challenging. (less)

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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  33,351 ratings  ·  4,217 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 (Again)
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 Gavea
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
Aug 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
I started this book with high hopes, which may have been part of the problem. But the main problem is the paper-thinness of the main characters. Halfway into the book, I was still straining to figure out which name referred to which character, since none of them had been given any distinct personalities.

And I think I'm supposed to admire the main characters, but hate them at the same time since they're fairly heinous? But honestly, I felt nothing besides boredom for them. They were flat and uni
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
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
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
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

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
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
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 5000-books
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 t
Julie Christine
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
Ashley M
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was very excited to read this once I read the plot and saw that it had a great cast attached to it for the film adaptation. Not even halfway through the book, I had to force myself to keep reading and to finish it. I kept thinking 'I'm sure something exciting happens and it gets better!' Alas, it did not.

There was absolutely no character development at all. Before he met Serena, George Pemberton was apparently a bit of a ladies man, however he was apparently completely enamored with Serena fr
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
“What future? Where is it?” Serena said sarcastically, looking around the room. “All I see is the here and now.”


Here and now is Depressing-Era North Carolina, the place where newly weds George and Serena Pemberton have come to make their fortune out of timber. The first chapter is an eye opener for the harsh Frontier conditions and for the steely strength of will in the eyes of beautiful Serena. It also serves as a grim song of Cassandra for things to come: by the end of the opening scene
Maria Espadinha
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it

Serena, devilish Serena!...
Gosh!... She gave me the creeps!
Imagine greed, ambition, hunger for power... with nothing there to act as a counterbalance.
No kindness, no goodness, no empathy, no compassion, no nothing...
That defines Serena.
She’s not a villain, oh no! Compared to her, villains are sweet, candied creatures. She’s not human. She’s an anti-heroine —an icon of evil 👿

Well... anti-heroes are as good as heroes
Heroes remind us how great humans can be, whilst anti-heroes remind us ho
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****SPOILER*** Help me please with the ending! 3 77 Sep 15, 2015 03:37PM  
Extended family? 2 29 Sep 07, 2015 06:50AM  
Serena the MOVIE ###SPOILERS## 7 94 Sep 07, 2015 06:49AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Serena by Ron Rash 1 16 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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