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  • ISBN-13: 9780061804113
  • ISBN-10: 0061804118

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 29.
  • Review Date: 2009-10-26
  • Reviewer: Staff

The latest from Rash (Serena), a collection, begins with “Hard Times,” in which a struggling farmer in the midst of the Great Depression tries to discover who's stealing eggs from his henhouse without offending the volatile pride of his impoverished neighbors. The present-day stories are also situated in poverty-plagued small towns whose young citizens are being lost to meth addictions: in “Back of Beyond,” a pawnshop owner has to intervene when he learns his nephew Danny has kicked his parents out of their house and sold off their furniture to support his habit; in “The Ascent,” a young boy lovingly tends to a couple of corpses—victims of a small plane crash. Rash's stories are calm, dark and overtly symbolic, sometimes so literal they verge on redundant: in “Dead Confederates,” when a man falls into the Confederate tomb he's looting, the graveyard caretaker notes: “I'd say he's helped dig his own grave.” With a mastery of dialogue, Rash has written a tribute and a pre-emptive eulogy for the hardworking, straight-talking farmers of the Appalachian Mountains. (Mar.)

BookPage Reviews

Ron Rash’s powerful new collection is filled with stories worth slowing down for

The short stories in New York Times bestseller and PEN/Faulkner award finalist Ron Rash's new collection, Burning Bright, flow so seamlessly into each other that the reader is tempted to devour them all in one sitting like a novel. But doing so would mean losing the power of each individual story—and that power is formidable, well worth slowing down for.

Ranging in time from the Civil War to the current day, the authentically short stories—the longest by far is 29 pages—are tight, hauntingly melancholic studies of men and women in their darkest hours, their remarkable strengths and sobering, fascinating faults, set against the lush, atmospheric backdrop of Appalachia that Rash has so firmly mastered.

From the first story, "Hard Times," about the brutality of family and community survival during the Great Depression, Rash weaves a thread of desperation and longing for brighter days throughout the collection. In "The Ascent," one of two current-day stories dealing with the demon of meth addiction, a young boy finds solace in the company of two frozen corpses; in the title story, "Burning Bright," a recently remarried widow calmly protects her mysterious but loving new husband—who just might be an arsonist—from the town that conveniently forgot her after her first husband's death.

"Falling Star" is the heartbreaking tale of a man who knows his wife has outgrown him and the suspended moment in time just before his unforgivable attempt to keep her is discovered, and in "Lincolnites," a young Civil War wife protects her family's future with an act of intimate, matter-of-fact violence.

The region is a character in and of itself. Its myths and legends and history permeate every story, even if Rash has not obviously placed them within the narrative—though when he does, in stories like "Corpse Bird," about a modern, educated man's fear for a neighbor's child when an owl lands in his tree three nights in a row, it is exquisitely effective.

All 12 stories are worthy, a rarity in many short-story collections, and all call for a slow, careful re-read. Those readers who normally eschew short stories for lacking character development or depth will want to take a chance on Burning Bright, and those who embrace the art form already will want Rash's newest offering in their permanent collection.

BAM Customer Reviews