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Burning Bright

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,251 Ratings  ·  316 Reviews
New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Ron Rash is "a storyteller of the highest rank" (Jeffrey Lent) and has won comparisons to John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, and Gabriel García Márquez. It is rare that an author can capture the complexities of a place as though it were a person, and rarer still that one can reveal a land as dichotomous and fractious as App ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Ecco (first published 2010)
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Will Byrnes
Oct 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Rash’s fourth book of short stories returns us to his Appalachia, covering a wide swath of time, from the Civil War to the present day. Rash has a gift for story-telling and the dozen tales here will do no harm to his sterling reputation. His characters tend to be at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder and their struggles tend toward the existential. A young Union soldier’s wife is threatened by a hostile Confederate. A family’s life is endangered by their meth-addict son. A lonely woman, ...more
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hey-shorty, grit-lit

chris wilson owes me some child support.

and it looked bigger on the internet; like an actual baby, i was surprised at just how tiny it was. it is wonderful wonderful, and i have no complaints about my book-son, but i just wish it had about a hundred more stories in it. i read it in a day, despite all efforts to "hold back" a little. but for a tiny book, it rocked my world in a huge way.

my favorite story was "the woman who believed in jaguars", mostly because i think the description of jaguar as
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Ron Rash takes poverty, holds it before the Reader in clarion brilliance, and states "Watch what I can do with this shit."

Sure, Christ opines You'll always have the poor among you but what difference does it make unless we can be among them? Why meth? Why live in a trailer with windows painted black, scratching out a meaningless existence playing "Freebird" once an hour to equally poor and drunk rednecks? What does it mean to be middle-aged and very unclear about where the next meal is coming f
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am thankful that this book has a gorgeous cover. If it didn't, I probably wouldn't have noticed it among the hundreds of other books available through Goodreads' First Reads Giveaways and I wouldn't be sitting here trying to tell you a little something about it. After I won Burning Bright and added it to my to-read list (I wasn't planning to read this book had I not won it), Karen Brissette (known to most of you as karen brissette) called me a bastard. Then she called me a rotten, rotten basta ...more
May 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: lit, short-stories
What I want to say about this collection is that I liked it. The first section more than the last. It seemed to have more atmosphere and emotion, to hold my interest with it's narrative and location. But that doesn't make for a good review.

Rash is most certainly a literary craftsman, forming tiny slice of life stories set in what is repeatedly called Appalachia in the blurb. I've recently read Pollock and Franklin and McCarthy and Woodrell, I think I've got a good idea of what this word means. I
Diane S ☔
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Spanning time from the Civil War through to the present, divided into two sections these short stories are gritty and real. All the people are going through some type of adversity, while through their own fault or just life's circumstances. Many are trying to recover something they have lost, trying to find a new path or have taken something that do not belong to them.

Rash's rendering of time and place is nothing short of astonishing. The details in these short stories make one feel that they ar
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ron Rash regularly uses lush, poetic descriptions of clear mountain streams where spotted trout sip mayflies off the surface. He also has a knack for introducing troubled souls who make questionable choices - truly, no character is painted in a single shade of good or bad.

Although the writing here is a 4.5, I just cannot connect strongly enough to short-story characters quickly enough to love them. All his tales are set in the Carolinas, and I honestly tire of the surroundings in a story collec
Larry Bassett
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read the first story of Burning Bright and wondered, “Why would I want to read more stories like this?” It was about what abject poverty did to some hillbillies and their children. It was about meanness and pride. I was demoralized. Then I immediately picked up the book again and read the second story.

The second story weren’t much better: a community in the mountains used up by meth.

Recently I read a book The Life You Can Save that convinced me that the real severe poverty in the world is
Sheldon Compton
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rash is a short story warrior. He will take the top of your head plumb off with some of these. And the others, they'll break your damn heart and quicken your blood. I'm telling you, Rash gets out the broad sword with this collection. My favorite book of his so far.
Quoting from a short story collection cannot give even a glimpse into all the tales, let alone the feel of the book. Rash’s collection has a definite feel, one that I am struggling to describe.

The first story is set during the Depression, in Appalachia. The next is also in Appalachia, but contemporary times rather than historical. This pairing is not an accident. The two stories add so much to each other. I had to go back and reread parts of “Hard Times” as soon as I finished “Back of Beyond”. I
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
There was some good stories here. I have briefly gone over a few here in this review. The quality of storytelling was good, there was a few that lacked originality and hook. I give it 3.5 stars.

Hard times
Jacob and Edna are farmers they sell corn and cabbage due to the depression they'd re facing hard times they have a hen and a case of missing eggs. Jacob goes out and asked in the local area inquiring if possibly any stray dogs responsible. Money is hard to come by but he will have to think is i
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Indie White box
These magnificent short stories center around tough choices in limited circumstances. Rash once again captures the voice of the Appalachians in stunning prose.

The first two stories (Hard Times, The Back of Beyond)alone and in juxtapostion are worthy of discussion. Two men taking different approaches to "ridding the snake from the henhouse"; the first of which turns out to be a harmless young girl, the second a meth-addicted nephew who is selling aff the farm a little at a time until his elderly
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mix bag with some real gems.

Hard times - 5 stars
Back of beyond – 4 stars
Dead confederates – 4.5 stars
The ascent – 2 stars
The woman who believed in jaguars – 2 stars
Burning bright – 5 stars
Return – 3 stars
Into the gorge – 3 stars
Falling star – 4.5 stars
The corpse bird – 2 stars
Waiting for the end of the world – 1 star
Lincolnites – 3.5 stars
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you finish reading a book & are loathe to put it away on one of your many bookshelves & instead opt to keep it by your bedside table so it can be close to you for just a little while longer... well then you know you've found a gem. This book is probably my favorite read this year. Ron Rash is a fantastic writer. I loved every single one of these stories. There was a sadness in every single one, a deep loneliness laced throughout all the different characters, but you feel them all. W ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
A lot of the 2 & 3 star reviews here are mainly down to the dark subject matter, and generally depressing air that these stories carry. Neither of these things bothered me; if it's dark and depressing you want Daniel Woodrell can out-dark Rash with his eyes closed, and I four-starred his Outlaw Album stories just recently. No, the problem here is that these stories although well written and easily read, lacked a certain edginess, a quirkiness, a bit of madness. If he was going for dark, for ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Short story capsules of poverty, choices, epiphany.
Apr 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I think Ron Rash is such a fine writer, with an elegance that belies the grittiness of his stories. He obviously knows his subject matter well and is able to make us feel his characters' pain and the toughness of their lives. His stories all have a strong sense of place and show his years of Appalachian heritage. Imbued with a quiet beauty, each story paints a complete picture.

His beautiful and lyrical language just grabs the reader and does not let go. Here is something that just was so touchi
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed

So I had just finished a read that was painful and went on forever. I needed something to get me back in balance. A book of short stories would be the thing. Something that I knew would be good. I grabbed Burning Bright by Ron Rash. I had never read anything by Ron Rash before but I had read enough about his ability to write a good short story that I was confident it would be the answer I needed. I read it in three days. Could have read it in one. It was depressing. It was sad. It was more sad.
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
The stories in "Burning Bright" nearly all take place in the same starkly beautiful patch of Appalachia near Boone, North Carolina. Life there has always been hard--these stories take place during the Civil War, the Depression, World War II and the present day---when home grown meth labs and wrecked personal jets dot the landscape. I am usually not a fan of historical fiction in a short story format, but every one of these stories works perhaps because Rash's characters, whatever their era, are ...more
This was a my first experience with Ron Rash and I am happy to say it was a good one. Skillfully written short stories with well developed and interesting characters. Definitely satisfying for a fan of Southern Gothic fiction.

Would recommend to those who enjoy both the short story format and SGF.
Tight stories set in the rural poverty of Appalachia, capturing the voices, the despair, the apathy and the weak struggles to overcome.
David Joy
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
He may be renowned as a novelist, but his short stories are where I think he shines. Ron Rash might just be the finest short story writer alive.
Susanne Carter
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review is included on my blog:

If Eudora Welty were alive today she would undoubtedly be a member of Ron Rash’s Facebook Fan Club. The Mississippi novelist and short story writer believed that a “sense of place is as essential to good and honest writing as a logical mind; surely they are somewhere related,” she wrote: “It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able to judge where you are." (

Ron Rash’s “sense of place” i
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent collection of short stories by a powerful voice from Appalachia.
Ron Rash was an author new to me, but now I know that I'd like to read anything else by him as his simple, spare, and penetrating style really appeals to me.

These twelve stories open a window on life in a part of the world not too often looked at. One of my favourites - "Dead Confederates" - is about two labourers, one trying to exploit the other in a search for lucrative buried artifacts in the graves of Confederate se
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book came as a big surprise to me. I never heard of this Ron Rash fellow, but after reading this fine collection of stories, I'll definitely be reading more of his work.

Upon first holding the book in my hand I had some reservations. I feared it may be like 'Cold Mountain' or something, the cover could easily be stamped with the infamous 'O' stamp and look none the more worse for it. I disliked the artwork - it gave off an air that made me think of downhome recipe books, or feng shui for fa
Burning Bright is a short story collection by Ron Rash. All are good and it's hard to pick any favorites, but the stories that stand out to me are: "Hard Times"--which I first read in a workshop, "Back of Beyond," "The Ascent," which I first read in The Best American Short Stories, I think it was the 2010 edition, and "Lincolnites."

In "Hard Times," eggs go missing out of Jacob and Edna's hen house. Jacob sets a trap to catch the snake he's sure is stealing his eggs, but has a difficult choice w
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm not a fan of short stories, but I really did enjoy these!! My favorites were the last one, "Licolnites," and I think it was the third one... "The Ascent?" I apologize, I already returned the book to the library, so I don't have it in front of me. I'm referring to the story about the young boy who finds the airplane crash. That story took a completely different turn than what I was expecting. I thought it was about a young boy who was part of the search party and that the couple in the airpla ...more
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-fiction
No, I'm not a fan of short stories. I want more time to get to know my characters and I want a clear resolution that most short stories don't seem to deliver. No, I don't relish stories about abject poverty and what it can do to families and children. But...yes, I love what Ron Rash does with his Appalachian region. His beautiful prose put me right in the middle of a slice of Appalachian life, then he extracted me and left his people to their lives. An old couple run out of their house into a di ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dang, Ron Rash can write! These hard scrabble stories are filled with people facing hardships and bad vs. worse choices in a land not filled with plenty, but American as all get out.

Short stories are difficult, in my opinion. The author must economize, must build suspense and weave tapestries in a handful of pages, leaving you with an incomplete arc that somehow leaves your belly full. At around 200 pages, this collection does just that.

One hallmark of a great writer is an ear for how people s
Rhonda Browning White
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This collection of short stories is an amazing depiction of the heart, soul, fervor and fatalism that is Appalachia. The stories herein span centuries, but each of them is flavored with the bittersweet taste of that ancient chain of mountains and the people they've birthed. From "Lincolnites" set in the Confederate war to "Back of Beyond" that might have occurred yesterday (or tomorrow), each of these stories paints a realistic, vivid, heartbreakingly honest image of the North Carolina I know an ...more
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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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“One guy has his head on a table, eyes closed, vomit drooling from his mouth. Another pulls out his false teeth and clamps them on the ear of a gal at the next table. An immense woman in a purple jumpsuit is crying while another woman screams at her. And what I'm thinking is maybe it's time to halt all human reproduction. Let God or evolution or wathever put us here in the first place start again from scratch, because this isn't working.” 2 likes
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