Ron Rash’s Serena
Ron Rash is a Carolinian author whose books generally have a deep sense of place, usually in the mountains of North or South Carolina. Rash often has an obvious yet well-intended and at times heroic theme of environmentalism. This environmental theme almost always has a David and Goliath overtone. Rash’s David is the lone person or group trying to save these mountains or stream and his Goliath is the big, bad, money-driven business bent on destroying them.
In previous novels (One Foot in Eden being the best), Rash writes from his David’s point of view, yet in Serena, he writes from the most formidable Goliath he’s penned yet. Serena is a woman unprecedented in Rash’s other novels. She is a woman of strength and intelligence and cold blood. She is a fascinating creature that despite yourself, you find yourself rooting for, even as she strips a forest clean of trees in her husband’s logging business and as she also clears out all obstacles (be they beast or human) in her way. Serena is seemingly matched by her husband Pemberton, yet as the novel comes to its surprising end, the reader can see that even Pemberton is no match for the sheer will power of Serena.
Rash tells in his interview about the book that he modeled Serena after Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, rather than a female villainess like Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth. In the novel Serena, Rash has outdone himself and has brought his favorite theme of nature preservation across to the audience in an entertaining and thought-provoking way. If you only read one Rash novel in your life, read this one. It will move you and enrage you and keep you turning the pages just to see what Serena will do next. And surprisingly, you will miss her when the book is done.