Back Matter

In the Beginning

Ron Rash's wonderful new story collection should lead you back to his first novel.

Book Cover If it were not for the New York Times’s critic’s resounding advocacy of Ron Rash’s writing, I would most certainly be quibbling with the opening statement: “Ron Rash was the seasoned author of nine books of fiction and poetry before his 10th, the stunning 2008 Serena, [apparently the first novel the Times critic reviewed] established him as one of the best American novelists of his day.”

Rash’s new story collection Burning Bright (Ecco), containing a dozen pieces of his fiction, is the writing being lauded with the above-mentioned opening, and for the most part the author is served well—which gives me, I think, license to digress.

My familiarity with Ron Rash’s fiction compels me to offer the view that while none of his work is to be dismissed, he has not yet exceeded the impact and resonance of his first novel, One Foot in Eden (some of which is foreshadowed in his poetry collection Raising the Dead).

Set in a small southern Appalachian town, Will Alexander, the town’s sheriff, investigates what he is convinced is the murder of Holland Winchester, the town bully. What is problematic is there is no body and, in fact, no witness. This part crime novel, part love story is rendered through the voices of five people: the sheriff, his deputy, a local farmer and his wife and son. It’s a passionate and tragic narrative that I will offer, rings as true as any story you have ever read.
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