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Saints at the River: A Novel Paperback – June 16, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When the 12-year-old daughter of a wealthy banker drowns in South Carolina's Tamassee River, her death sets off an emotionally charged battle between the grieving parents, who want to put up a dam to recover her body, and the local environmentalists, who will risk everything to defend the pristine state of their river. Rash pens his novel in clear, unadorned prose appropriate to its ripped-from-the-headlines premise; only the lyrical opening passage, which recounts the girl's death, reflects his skill as a poet (Among the Believers; Raising the Dead). But the book is rich with nuance, mostly because Rash selects Maggie Glenn as his first-person narrator. A Tamassee native who now works as a news photographer in the state capital, Columbia, Maggie has deep ties to the town, but she's detached from the main fray. As a result, her news angles and her romantic attachments keep shifting. Maggie's rage against her father isn't sufficiently explored to carry the weight it bears in the plot, but Rash compensates for this weakness by creating detailed, highly particular characters. A professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and author of a previous Southern novel, One Foot in Eden, Rash clearly knows the people and places he writes about, and that authenticity pays off in a conclusion that packs an unexpected and powerful punch.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In his second novel set in Appalachia, poet Rash blends a classic environmental struggle with a budding romance. A young girl drowns in South Carolina's Tamassee River, her body lodged in a deep eddy, making it impossible to retrieve except by damming the river upstream. Backed by the Wild and Scenic River Act, environmentalists protest loudly. Photographer Maggie Glenn, who grew up in Tamassee, is assigned by her paper to cover the story, along with reporter Allen Hemphill, a Pulitzer finalist whose work Maggie admires. Locals objecting to precedents that would allow future alterations to the pristine river are pitted against the drowned girl's parents, who make an impassioned plea for the recovery of her remains. At the same time, Maggie and Allen's relationship gradually shifts from professional to romantic, as he begins to put aside memories of the deaths of his wife and daughter. Appalachian dialects and Rash's lyrical description of this small Appalachian town create a strong sense of place, adding to his well-spoken plea against the devastation caused by damming the nation's rivers. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312424914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312424916
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist and New York Times bestselling novel, Serena, in addition to three other prizewinning novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; three collections of poems; and four collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Chrmistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O.Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
SAINTS AT THE RIVER is the second novel by Ron Rash. The action of the plot concerns the death of a young girl in the Tamassee River, which is located in Oconee County, SC and protected by federal law. The girl's body becomes trapped in the dangerous river and the small community around the river becomes a flashpoint for a confrontation between environmentalists and the grieving parents.

Maggie, a newspaper photographer, returns to the town where she grew up to cover the story. She soon becomes entangled in old relationships with her dying father (towards whom she feels much unresolved anger) and the brooding Luke (an ex-lover and militant environmentalist). To oversimplify, this novel is sort of a "You can't go home again or can you" story. Maggie's attitude towards her family and the river evolves over the course of the novel and Rash wisely leaves her conflicting web of emotions unresolved after her photograph of the grieving father changes the course of the story.

I highly recommend this book with its economically drawn yet vivid characters and love of place. Rash's men tend to be too sensitive by half, but that's a minor distraction. Ron Rash is a name all readers of new fiction should watch for.
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Format: Paperback
This was a really good book. I must admit that I didn't like it as much as his first novel, 'One Foot In Eden', but it was good nonetheless. As I read this story I kept asking myself whose side I would be on, and just when I thought my mind was made up, the other side made a very good point, and a very sad one.

12 year-old Ruth Kowalsky drowned in the Tamassee River during a family outing, a river that is protected by the Wild and Scenic River Act. This means that nothing can be done to this river to change or alter it in ANY way. Mr. and Mrs. Kowalsky want to retrieve their daughter's body, but because it lies in a dangerous part of the river known as a hydraulic, divers can't simply go in and get it. A temporary dam needs to be built to get her out. And this dam violates the Scenic River Act.

Maggie, a photographer from the area who now lives in Columbia, has been sent to her hometown with reporter Allen Hemphill to cover the growing problem. The town and the parents are at odds when it comes to retrieving Ruth. The town says no, she belongs to the river now, and are not willing to break the law to get her out, while the parents just want their daughters body so they can give her a proper burial back home. Seems pretty cut and dry huh? I had no doubt who's side I was on at the beginning of this book. But by the end my opinion had changed.

Mr. Rash is an exceptional writer. He makes you feel like you're right there on that river with everyone else. He makes everyone involved feel so real, like they're distant relatives of ours. Just as I recommended his first book, I absolutely recommend this one as well. Mr. Rash is a very talented author who definitely should not be missed. I can't wait for his next novel.
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Format: Hardcover
Never a wasted word in the prose of poet Ron Rash, who sets the reader down at the heart of this deeply-connected Southern mountain community -- at the riverside, in the midst of a double tragedy and an environmental fight that no outsider is going to win. One wishes he had told us more, through his expatriate female narrator, about why she had put so many miles between her current life and this idyllic country and her own good people, but he's never going to tell too much about anything. Mr. Rash is mountain to the core,a spare and totally authentic voice, and that's just the way it is.
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Format: Paperback
Saints at the River addresses a common problem encountered by a country with a diminishing wilderness, but it is tragedy with a human face that turns the tide, making legal decisions all the more difficult: protect the land as dictated by law or make exemptions for deserving humans who are suffering. The Tamassee River is protected by environmental law as a Wild and Scenic River in South Carolina, one of the few pristine waterways kept out of the reach of developers, but it is a long, bitter struggle by the residents to achieve such protective status for the river.

However, when a young girl falls drowns near the falls, her body tapped by the hydraulic intensity of the churning water, her parents are distraught. They cannot recover the body. Five weeks later, with media gathered to witness the proceedings, meetings are held to determine whether a temporary dam can divert the water long enough to free the body. A critical factor in the debate is the grieving mother, whose religious conviction is that her daughter's body must be reunited with her soul for burial. This mother's anguish is powerful and moving to the onlookers, her subdued mien all but drowning out the eloquent arguments of a local environmentalist, who says the river has claimed the girl and that she should be left in peace, part of the terrible harmony of nature.

Maggie Glenn, a former resident of Oconee County in the Appalachia's, is now a photojournalist in Colombia, South Carolina. Sent by her newspaper with award-winning journalist Allen Hemphill to cover the story, Maggie is forced to relive her personal demons and long antipathy to a father who is dying of cancer.
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