The Cove by Ron Rash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lush prose, well-drawn characters, and a tightly-woven plot all characterize Ron Rash's THE COVE, the story of Laurel Shelton, who lives in the Cove, an isolated area in the North Carolina mountains. Set during the first World War, THE COVE finds Laurel and her war-wounded brother, Hank (who lost a hand fighting in the European front), working to fix up the secluded family farm. Called a witch by the people of Mars Hill because of her parents' untimely deaths, Laurel endures her outcast status with grace and determination. Laurel's isolation from the community becomes the main theme of the novel, which takes a turn when Laurel nurses to health a musician she finds collapsed in the woods near her home.
The novel explores the dark side of community. Southern writers like Wendell Berry love to extol the virtues of small towns. In THE COVE, Rash reveals the jingoism and xenophobia easily found in small-town America. At the same time, however, Rash shows that community is more than just location. It's about choosing--friends, relationships, and battles to fight.
I really enjoyed this book. A few negative reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere have called the characters stereotypes. Nothing could be further than the truth. Like the mountain parakeets Rash describes in THE COVE, these people are unique, natives of Rash's beloved Appalachia. And like those parakeets, these people are in danger of disappearing.
A beautiful, haunting novel. Highly recommended
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O for a muse of fire,