karen's Reviews > Serena

Serena by Ron Rash
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's review
May 02, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: pretty-girls-make-graves, favorites, grit-lit

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 book." but it doesn't always work. heathens.

i mean, that's still as good a description as i can come up with, although serena gets her hands way dirtier than lady mcb. more like "out, damn river of blood."

this is a historical piece, chronicling the rise of an uber-power couple in a 1929 logging town in north carolina. serena enters the community after her new husband has already established himself there, and has already fathered a child on a local girl. she is displeased. and when serena is displeased, people are going to get hurt.

serena is one of the most wonderfully single-mindedly ruthless characters i have ever read. she knows her way around a logging operation better than her husband, she hunts and rides better than any of the men she and her husband oversee, and she has a freaking falcon. (i don't have my book with me right now, but i am pretty sure it is a falcon. it is some kind of bird that hangs out with its master and is completely badass.)

when she discovers that she is unable to bear a child herself, she sets out to destroy the one her husband has already fathered. and the girl. and the girl's father. and anyone else who has anything to say about it.

ron rash is an amazing man for description. he knows these logging towns, he knows the woods and the men who work there. there is so much life in this story, and most of it; the people and the trees they are felling, is the last gasp of this life. all is destruction.

i know i have said this in a another review somewhere, but what heightens the impact of this book is not only the danger of serena (and her husband ain't no pleasant master, either) but the danger of nature itself. like in my beloved descent, where the caves are just as dangerous as any subterranean monsters, cutting down gigantic trees is also extremely dangerous. many men will die, through natural accident or manipulation by the most ambitious couple in literature.

this is a glorious book, and needs to be read by all. except elizabeth. it has too much animal-death for her. it is a deadly operation,after all.

a quick note about how saddened i am that the movie that was in the works with darren arnofsky and angelina jolie got canceled. the word is now that there will still be a movie by susanne bier starring bradley cooper and jennifer lawrence, which is fine, but this character just screams jolie to me.

old stupid review:

this book has so damn much in it: the murderous machinations of the macbeths, the steinbeckian/old testament themes of justice and revenge, the casual murders nature can wreak that are cormac mccarthy cowboyish... and a greek chorus of sorts. i have name-dropped!! i have loved appalachia! i have finished my paper!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
May 2, 2009 – Shelved
May 2, 2009 –
page 176
May 3, 2009 –
page 286

Comments (showing 1-50 of 109) (109 new)

message 1: by RandomAnthony (new)


This made me cough/laugh, and it still hurts. Don't let him push you around, Karen! He's not the goodreads float hall monitor!

karen well, he's not incorrect - i do float the odd old review when i am feeling lonesome. and he always calls me on it.

message 3: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony I think we should all start floating reviews daily. I am Spartacus.

message 4: by David (new)


karen love for me = talking about books. when i float, i get to talk about books. come on and love me.

karen love for me = talking about books. when i float, i get to talk about books. come on and love me.

message 7: by David (last edited Feb 01, 2012 06:43AM) (new)

David Real self-love is relinquishing control of the outside world and just being the best you that you can be.

I self-loved this morning before I left for work, and I was outstanding.

karen the best me i can be still frequently falls short.

Michelle karen gave this book to me and she is correct - it's great, gritty, and Angelina Jolie would make an excellent Serena.

(I like the new review, but I wanted to let you know Serena's bird is an eagle.)

karen yes!! an eagle!! but trained!

Steve "Out, damn river of blood." I love it. Frailty, thy name is not this woman.

karen did you read this one?? did you review it?? link me!! i am at work and too scattered to look right now.

Steve Haven't read it, but enjoyed your review. There are several thousand in that category.

message 14: by Ryn (new) - added it

Ryn Well, you may not be able to sell this book to every customer, but I am sold. It is on the to-read list now.

karen oh, great! link me to reviews when you people write them!

message 16: by Michelle (last edited Feb 01, 2012 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michelle And, if you like short stories, read Ron Rash's Burning Bright. Another fantastic book. karen's review sold me on it.


karen hahaaha hey - that's me! with a book-baby!

message 18: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Great review KB. Everyone should read this book.

One of my favorite quotes:
Cheney gave a brief half bow in Serena’s direction.
“Pardon me,” he said. “I should never have doubted your knowledge of venom.”
and another:
Harris nodded. “A great business investment, religion. I’ll take it over government bonds anytime.”
Later Serena quotes Medea, with chilling intent. Not a nice lady.

Serpents dropping from the skies, literal dragon-slaying, a disconnected Serena mirrored by a feet-in-the-mud real girl, a henchman who is like a dark lamp-genie, a Greek chorus.

Serena is one of the all time greats, IMHO.

Re casting, Serena is supposed to be late 20s, which would make Jolie a stretch age-wise. Who would believe even a pretense of innocence from her? The cinematic potential is incredible. It is important that Serena at least look innocent. This is a very visual novel. Whoever the director, they will need a top notch cinematographer. Major Oscar potential here.

karen you're right. hollywood has always been very considerate to author's intent. hahaahahha.

no, but i agree, i am just releasing my early-morning snark

Janet Richards Angelina Jolie as Serena - Heck Yeah. Too bad that was cancelled.

karen i know - it would have been perfect.

Laima you are right, Karen, this is an amazing book...just started reading and I can't put it down

karen oh. yay!

Elizabeth La Lettrice I was just reading about how this movie is coming out this year (with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Coops) and now that I read your review, I am especially intrigued! Now that you have, no doubt, seen The Hunger Games with JL, does that change your opinion on her playing a ruthless character? (Not that Katniss was ruthless but rather, the environment that she was in. Not sure if that parallel makes any sense.)

karen a ruthless teen (or a teen in a ruthless situation) is still different, to me, than a self-assured woman on this scale. i mean, serena is seriously badass. i think lawrence is great at acting, but for me it is still an awkward fit

Elizabeth La Lettrice Yea, I see what you mean. I haven't read the book yet, though I now plan to do so, so I guess I was basing that off initial impressions. It was more so the brutality of killing - another reviewer was extremely enraged by the animal brutality in the beginning chapters (I'm assuming that evolves), which made me think of all the people enraged about the killing of children in HG (reasonable complaint). I have conflicting opinions of Jennifer Lawrence but I guess we'll see soon enough when the movie comes out. The Nookbook is only $2.99 right now so I'll be reading it soon.

karen huzzah! you will like it. i promise

Jenbebookish I initially thought Jolie would be a good fit too, but it was such the typical choice that I was almost turned off by it. After seeing Snow white I'd think Charlize Theron could pull it off, but she's I guess too old for the part tho the accuracy of the ages aren't as important to me as whether the overall feel of the character fits. Jennifer Lawrence... meh. In my eyes--she's too plain jane and I'm not sure I can see her playing somebody so evil. But she's a good actress and there have been many movies where I was dead set against an actor playing a part and then was swayed, so I have enough faith in her acting chops to keep an open mind. My biggest complaint is Bradley Cooper for Pemberton. um, what? am I the only one who thinks this is just so... off? B. Coop is just so...pretty. And not nearly brawny enough! Pemberton is supposed to be big and beefy and strong, and that is NOT what I see when I look at Brad. Anyone else seeing this or am I alone on this one?

karen in my mind it doesn't work wither, but i'm pretty much shrugging over the entire project at this point...

Rayroy Jennifer Lawrence as Serena!? She was good in Winter's Bone but can she pull this rule off?!

Rayroy Her and That Bradley Cooper are going to star and it's coming out this year

karen i know. i'm a little apprehensive about it all...

message 33: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki I am so excited to get this. And since it's going to be a movie I get reward points towards a free movie. So double win. :D

karen what is this "points?" i enjoy points. and votes. and other empty measures of accomplishment.

message 35: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki Scene membership. Is a Canadian movie theater company. So if you buy this book you also get points on your scene membership card going towards a free movie.

karen man, you guys have everything....

message 37: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki I wish our books were as cheap as yours. You see the American price in the corner and you think oh that's nice. And then you find the priced higher in Canada sticker and your like. Son of a bitch.

karen that's true, but you get to drown your sorrows in delicious cadbury bars...

message 39: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki You don't have Cadburys. Not even the delicious Cadbury cream eggs.

karen we have those, part of the year! but i have a cadre of canadians who send me the special good stuff that only youuuuu people get.

message 41: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki We just got them all year round. It's awesome. And Oreos. And I think ketchup chips. I don't think you guys have them.

karen we have oreos!

there is one brand that makes ketchup chips still. i think. but you guys have bacon maple chips.

message 43: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki Ah I wasn't sure.

We have a whole bunch of weird flavours ever since lays did a contest. Like poutine, and perogies. I know you guys no longer produce twinkies.

karen no, we do again!! it was a bleak few months, but they are BACK!!!!

message 45: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki Oh awesome. Why would they ever stop in the first place. I guess lesson learned.

karen there was much outrage. but now all is right with the world.

message 47: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki My mum was freaking out. I thought she was going to turn into Tallahassee. Luckily it didn't happen up here.

karen well, your twinkies and cupcakes (which were, for me, the greater loss) are a little different. it's hard to articulate how, but i had some kindly canadians send me some to ease my pain, and they were not quite the same. not worse or anything, just... different.

message 49: by Becki (new) - added it

Becki Really?! I thought they would all have used the same recipe.

karen i know! but it's all strangely different! like the way your year-round cadbury mini-eggs taste sliiightly different from our easter-only ones. to my very refined palate.

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