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The World Made Straight

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,465 ratings  ·  287 reviews
Travis Shelton is seventeen the summer he wanders into the woods onto private property outside his North Carolina hometown, discovers a grove of marijuana large enough to make him some serious money, and steps into the jaws of a bear trap. After hours of passing in and out of consciousness, Travis is discovered by Carlton Toomey, the wise and vicious farmer who set the ...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Picador USA (first published April 4th 2006)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  2,465 ratings  ·  287 reviews

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Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

As Imagine Dragons said . . . . .

If you follow me, you’ll know that earlier this month I read a book that made tears squirt out my own face and how unacceptable that was for me. Miracle of all miracles had this cover pop up right when I needed it most . . . . .

I mean, has there ever been a more perfect creation for a Kelly/Mitchell surefire success? I don’t think so. Between the cover, the fact it was written by Ron Rash and the
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“… he sat on the steps as morning made its slow lean into the valley – sunlight grabbing hold of the treetops and sliding down the sycamore and birch trunks, which threw the light back, almost a reflection. Then the sun eased into the pasture, a slow unfurling that lit up dew beads on the grass and the spider webs. A pair of goldfinches flashed across the meadow like yellow sparks flung out from the morning’s bright becoming”

The World Made Straight is the third novel by award-winning American
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
The World Made Straight is the fourth Ron Rash novel I have read, and like the others, I rated it 5 stars. Mr. Rash's writing is consistently superb, his words perfect in their ability to evoke images and feeling. There is a heavy layer of darkness in his novels, but his writing makes the darkness beautiful and seductive, not in a way that glorifies the bad, but in a way that shows how spare is the line between happiness and pain, between goodness and evil. I'm sure I'll be reading the rest of ...more
backlist bitch
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just before starting this I read a review that complained that this book was too much like an After School Special. (Remember those?). Naturally I started to get concerned.

Now that I'm finished I can say that I don't agree. Although this is a coming-of-age story there is no fluff and no happy endings. It does not focus too much on gritty aspects but after reading Tobacco Road I needed a more mellow book to balance out somewhat.

The characters are well-developed, flawed, and nuanced. Rash is a
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
The images this guy brings to mind are just gorgeous. While I didn't feel the same attachment to any of the characters, except one, as I did in "Serena" and in "Eden," the old journal entries and the beautiful gospel voice of one of them grabbed me tight. A disconsolate young teacher, a boy setting off on the wrong path, and the hangover of a two-sided war will together grab you like a bear trap on the ankle. Big suspense and a Plott hound to boot.

The settings for his tales, however, show off
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern-writers
THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT is one of my favorites by Ron Rash. I loved this novel that was filled with great characters and an excellent story.
Andy Weston
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Set in the backwoods of North Carolina in the 1970s, this is a book that gets close to being ‘Southern Gothic’ without actually getting there. Rash gets sidetracked. Throughout there is the ghost a Civil War battle, which doesn’t quite fit into the story of the 17 year old high school drop out rebelling at years of ill-treatment. The novel is a rare blend of the historic, gritty crime and coming of age, and it works well if the reader doesn’t arrive at it expecting a complete southern gothic, ...more
Bob Redmond
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Rash's novel tells the story of a wayward kid in North Carolina trying to get on his feet. The kid flirts with drugs, alcohol, crime, girls, guns, and has family troubles to boot. He is helped by an older guy who has troubles of his own. The whole saga is set against a backdrop of Civil War history, with some asides on the nature of violence courtesy Simone Weil.

The book reads like a tame "after school special." The characters, let alone the dialogue, are barely believable, and Rash's writing
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Like several of Rash's other novels, The World Made Straight is based on one of his short stories. The others I've read have all been successes. This one, not so much.

While the writing was competent, the story too often felt forced and contrived.

In addition, Rash's efforts to develop the Civil War theme, which focused on the struggle between two Southern factions (literally neighbor fighting neighbor), failed. Instead of adding to the story, it became a distraction. Furthermore, the plot was
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Radiant, devastating and compelling. Beautifully written...
Text Publishing
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
‘An intellectually satisfying work of suspense … [The World Made Straight] reminds us of the sort of compelling literature a brave artist can fashion from the shards of such experience.’
Los Angeles Times Book Review

‘[Ron Rash’s] novels are complex and compelling, told in graceful, conscientious prose, and The World Made Straight is his finest yet.’
Charlotte Observer

‘Ron Rash writes some of the most memorable novels of this young century … No writer since the late Larry Brown has handled the raw
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it

3.5 -- the writing is a solid 4, but I really disliked most of the characters and didn't care what happened to them. This book may have suffered from being read after back to back 5 star books that I absolutely loved.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It had been awhile since I dipped into my Ron Rash collection and am so glad I did. Rash writes about the Southern rural poor with language that brings to life not only the gritty underside of day-to-day life but also the beauty of the country, while weaving in a good bit of Southern history.

This 2006 book could be described in a variety of ways. With respect to 17 year old Travis, it is a coming of age story. With respect to mid-30's Leonard, it is a coming to terms story. Both come at huge
Robert Warren
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
When we were teens in Atlanta, my brother was a wayward hellraiser with a head full of ideas. Even though we were modern kids, the shadows of the Civil War still touched us in various enigmatic ways. He and I agree that very few artists have captured that essence, but he said Ron Rash nailed some of it in World Made Straight. He also said Rash created a character that reminded him of his teen self. So I was eager to check it out. My brother sent it to me.

It's a lovely, unusual book, told in a
Sean Owen
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Disclaimer: I think Ron Rash is one of the greatest living short story writers in America.

Some writers seem to be able to bring their skills to whatever they set down to write. Russell Banks has produced several notable short stories and yet also managed to produce the 700+ page historical fiction masterpiece "Cloudsplitter" A writer like Rash with an impressive resume of short fiction stumbles so often in his novels that it's hard to believe you're reading the same author. I've read "The Cove"
David Joy
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I personally prefer this novel to SERENA.
Joan Colby
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Unlike others mining the same vein, Ron Rash invariably treats his troubled characters with compassion. While The World Made Straight is not his strongest book, it’s certainly commendable. The characters are Travis, a bright teenage boy whose farm family, particularly his father, scorns intellectual curiosity. Travis is typical of hardscrabble Appalachian kids whose entertainment focuses on beer, drugs,music and girls. The second main character is Leonard, an ex-teacher who lost his license ...more
Claudia Putnam
Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is a good novel to read right now. It certainly doesn't address racism in the South, but it does address the supposed legacy of honor and tradition in the Confederacy by examining how neighbor turned on neighbor in mountain counties which were often intensely divided on the subject of secession. Apparently, once the Confederacy was established, massacres of dissenting communities by their former friends and even relatives were common, and the present-day legacy of one such event is at the ...more
Claire Fullerton
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
There's a good reason the Atlanta Journal Constitution called Ron Rash “One of the major writers of our time.” To me, he is this and more. Ron Rash writes in a gritty, mountain vernacular that can’t be faked; one has to come from it and know it as their own voice of consciousness in order to wield it as plausibly as he. Rash’s language, therefore, is its own reasoning; it speaks of a clear-cut, hard-edged, uncompromising way of living in the world devoid of the illusion of optimism. One ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another riveting work by my new favorite Appalachian writer - Ron Rash. As I read 'The World Made Straight,' I kept thinking that this story would make a great movie. Lo and behold, I just found out today that not only is this novel being made into a film, but so is 'Serena,' which will co-star none other than "Katniss" herself, Jennifer Lawrence! (Brad Cooper will play Pemberton, which I think is all wrong - he's not burly enough - but, I digress.) And, to get back to 'The World Made Straight,' ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wasn't so sure I was going to like this one. The subject didn't really draw me. THEN, I started reading and enjoyed it very much. This is another book by the author I have been reading for the last few weeks. I have one more to go.

The story takes place in the present set in the backwoods of North Carolina near the border of Tennessee.
Ron Rash knows his people and the struggles that go on in mountain cultures.

The young teen in the book has had a hard life on a tobacco farm and sees a way to
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
I love reading the works of poets turned to novelists, and this one doesn't disappoint. The imagery and Appalachian landscape are wrought thoughtfully and are deeply felt. The story itself is tragic. Through the POV of a young man still defining his own life, we glimpse laterally the life of a man who has allowed circumstances to direct his fate, and not until his final moment does he choose his own action. It saves the life of our POV, but it ends his. He is a hero, but tragically, his heroism ...more
I have no regrets reading this book because I never knew I was emotionally attached to it until the end. I was mean to this book in the beginning. I expected drug fights and gunfire like Breaking Bad but instead got two young people who change their lives for the better. Sadly this change was too good to be true so the end kind of a twist for me. It was good but I almost teared up at work which would worry a lot of people. It's got a lot of heart. I wish I can make a formal review for this book ...more
Larry H
Although he doesn't seem to write super-happy books, Ron Rash is a fantastic writer. And this book was another great one of his. Bleak and a bit depressing, yes, but fantastically well-written. I had read the first chapter of the book when it was a short story in a Best American Short Stories collection a few years back, and I remember the story itself haunted me for a while.

Travis is a high-school dropout and farm kid, aimlessly looking for some way to escape what he sees as his dead-end life.
Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a good coming-of-age book with local flavor for me, since it takes place in the North Carolina mountains not far from my home in Chattanooga. Woven into the narrative are some facts about the Civil War, which is another interest of mine.

The central character, Travis Shelton, comes to terms with the grim realities of his own life, with the extra dimension of historical influences he discovers with the help of an unlkely mentor, disgraced teacher Leonard Shuler, now dealing drugs from a
Barksdale Penick
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a very well told tale, with quite a number of really interesting and well developed characters. There is a parallel set of sequences set in the same region of North Carolina during the Civil War; I did not find these to be well integrated into the plot, and in fact found the author's links between the old and new somewhat contrived. But I really enjoyed the Civil War scenes on their own. Meanwhile the main tale is quite believable in its depiction of humans as as mix of good ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I wouldn't recommend this one to a new Ron Rash reader. I really liked it because of the setting and the setting being so close to my parents home in the mountains. It also took place at the time that we first moved there. It is scary to think such things went on but they really probably did. Did I say scary? Yes..Ron does such a good job describing the events that at times I got queasy. It is a dark book about what appear to be hopeless circumstances. I am glad I read it but for those reasons I ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Perhaps not as good as some of his other books, but an enjoyable story nevertheless, and Rash is rapidly climbing up in the ranks of my favorite authors. I like his pace and voice, and the fact that he describes a world I am more familiar with than many books I read. All of the characters are deeply flawed, kind of like the people who inhabited the area and fought a vicious civil war within the Civil War in the Appalachians. The characters are not one dimensional though and have some depth. With ...more
Kasa Cotugno
May 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: awards-winners
Ron Rash epitomizes the new southern writer, one writing about a south still showing the scars of the War Between the States from a deeper perspective. This novel is grounded in its portrayal of characters rooted in specific time and place, written without irony, old fashioned story telling, but uneven in its pacing. There were sections that took my breath away, and others that I had to struggle with to keep going.
Nancy Kackley
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I stayed up too late many nights, and kept turning just one more page (I said). The characters grabbed me and I wanted to see how they would twist and turn in their predicaments. On finishing it, I said to myself that it would make a good mini-series. A quick web search tells me that an independent film was made based on this book and will be released in 2015.
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Contemporary YA: The World Made Straight (book v. movie) 1 17 Jan 11, 2015 10:25AM  
2 books in one 1 14 Dec 23, 2008 04:22PM  

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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 ...more
“Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates. Those who use it and those who endure it are turned to stone… a soul which has entered the province of force will not escape this except by a miracle.” 4 likes
“The worst thing the nineteen sixties did to this country was introduce drugs to rednecks,” 4 likes
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