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Serena by Ron Rash
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's review
Oct 06, 2009

really liked it

Set in 1920's North Carolina, the book starts with the wealthy timber baron Pemberton arriving back at the lumber camp with his new wife, Serena. Serena is very different from what the locals (poor but resilient mountain folk) are used to: she hunts and rides horse just like a man, knows as much about felling trees as the lumberjacks, and is a very savvy businesswoman. It soon becomes clear that Serena is running the show, with Pemberton taking the back seat.

Rachel Harmon is one of the mountain folk caught in Pemberton and Serena's web. The teenage Rachel was seduced--and then abandoned--by Pemberton, and has given birth to his illegitimate son. Now she has to try and care for the boy with no help from Pemberton, since Serena forbids it. More and more people begin to feel Serena's wrath: from the business partner who is perceived as weak to the Sherriff who dares to interfere when things start to get bloody. It very quickly becomes obvious that Serena is not a woman you want to cross.

This book is hard to peg in just one genre. It's historical fiction, but it could also be classified as horror. It's a psycological drama, but with an environmental bent. The blending of the different genres makes this an interesting and unique book. I especially liked the descriptions of the woods and mountains, and the struggle to make the Smokies into a National Park. It was a fun little surprise to see Kephart and Albright make small appearances, especially after recently watching Ken Burn's National Park series. Serena herself is not a character you want to tangle with. She's very chilling and reminded me of what Rhoda from The Bad Seed would've been like all grown up. Not a comforting thought!

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