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The Cove: A Novel Hardcover – April 10, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061804193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061804199
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2012: Hank and Laurel Shelton live in a lonely Appalachian valley, on the same broken homestead where their parents toiled and died years before. Locals shun Laurel for her witchy birthmark, and Hank struggles to maintain the farm without a hand he lost in the Great War. When a mute stranger arrives, both (especially Laurel) allow themselves hope for a future outside the cove, away from small-town superstition and wartime fervor. But whose skull is that in the well?

In the lyrical prose that won him such acclaim with Serena, Ron Rash washes this novel's languid spaces with bucketfuls of atmospheric dread, pushing his characters into the currents of their fate with determined empathy. Murky and deliberate, The Cove solidifies Rash as master of modern Southern Gothic. --Jon Foro


“A gently beautiful new novel…Rash, a native of Appalachia, has written a southern tragedy, with a self-consciously Shakespearean structure and economy…. [A] powerful novel, with some of the mysterious moral weight of Carson McCullers, along with a musical voice that belongs to Rash alone.” (USA Today)

“This book ranks among the best backwoods fiction since 2006’s Winter’s Bone.... [A] gripping novel…[not] just an elegant work of literary fiction, written in a voice that’s hauntingly simple and Southern; it’s also a riveting mystery.” (Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A)

“Rash is particularly good at capturing the hazy space where otherworldly phantoms mingle with plain old human meanness…Rash never lays down a dull or clunky line…at the very end…these pages ignite, and suddenly we’re racing through a conflagration of violence that no one seems able to control except Rash.” (Washington Post)

“In Rash’s skilled hands, even farm chores take on a meditative beauty.” (People)

“Mr. Rash’s writing is so richly atmospheric…[he] can make words take wing…. A breathless sequence of events lead the book to its devastating final sentence. And that sentence affirms Mr. Rash’s reputation for writerly miracles.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

“[B]eautifully crafted…In [the cove’s] story, we hear the unique voice of a region made all the more poignant for how few will ever hear it exactly this way again.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Rash masterfully poises suspense elements and gives full reign to other strengths: language, awe, symbolism, cast of characters and mountain knowledge…. It’s a book you could read again to savor the writing. Rash has found a subject that compellingly represents his vision—beauty shadowed by foreboding; and he’s made it symphonic.” (Asheville Citizen-Times)

“Lonely young woman meets mysterious stranger. What might have been trite and formulaic is anything but in Rash’s fifth novel, a dark tale of Appalachian superstition and jingoism so good it gives you chills… Even better than the bestselling Serena (2008), for here Rash has elevated melodrama to tragedy.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Rash effortlessly summons the rugged Appalachian landscape as well as the small-mindedness and xenophobia of a country in the grip of patriotic fervor, drawing striking parallels to the heated political rhetoric of today. A powerful novel that skillfully overlays its tragic love story with pointed social commentary.” (Booklist (starred review))

“The gripping plot, gothic atmosphere, and striking descriptions, in particular of the dismal cove, make this a top-notch story of an unusual place and its fated and fearful denizens.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review), Pick of the Week)

“Rash develops his story masterfully; the large cast of characters is superbly realized, as is the xenophobia that accompanies the war, and Rash brings the various narrative threads together at the conclusion of the novel with formidable strength and pathos.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“Set during World War One, The Cove is a novel that speaks intimately to today’s politics. Beautifully written, tough, raw, uncompromising, entirely new. Ron Rash is a writer’s writer who writes for others.” (Colum McCann)

“Ron Rash uses language with such apparently effortless skill that it is as though he found words in his barn as a child and has been training them to fit his needs ever since....Rash throws a big shadow now and it’s only going to get bigger and soon.” (Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone)

“I wish the whole world spoke the way Ron Rash’s characters do. Read him for his poetry and great humanity. Just read him.” (Jennifer Haigh, author of Faith)

“Ron Rash is a writer of both the darkly beautiful and the sadly true; his new novel, The Cove, solidifies his reputation as one of our very finest novelists.” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls)

“The Cove is a beautifully written book that uses heartfelt characters to describe the difficult life of a lonely, misunderstood young woman.” (The Desert News)

“The Cove, the laconically beautiful new novel by Ron Rash, actually is lyrical, in the dictionary sense of having to do with song or poetry. Rash’s gorgeous prose is as close to song as you’ll find without an accompanying score . . .” (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

“Ron Rash has a deft touch in describing both landscape and household, and his use of evocatively specific regionalisms never edges into condescension or vernacular.” (Open Letters Monthly / Like Fire (blog))

“Ron Rash always satisfies. . . His newest novel, , reinforces this assessment. Rash still knows how to delivers a terrifically searing blow.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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

An outstanding story,with very colorful,interesting characters.
Donald H. Adams
It also left a lot of loose ends--introducing characters but not integrating them into the story's resolution.
Once you start reading this book, you will not want to put it down as you race to the end.
Wandering boy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ron Rash is an author of supernatural perception whose writing can take on the haunting forcefulness of classic gothic storytelling. His power of observation is allied with his talent for translating human emotion into exquisite language. These brilliant stylistic gifts are deployed to full advantage in his latest pointed, tense yet heartfelt novel, The Cove: A Novel.

In THE COVE Rash plunges the reader deeply into a chilling world in which reality is narrow, bitter, and tragic. The setting is rural Appalachia at the height of World War I and though the war is raging far off in distant Europe, the barbarism of that war is close and fierce, right down home in the small mountain town of Mars Hill, North Carolina.

The rich variety of characters who populate Rash's Appalachia and their persuasive authenticity contribute scrupulously to the elemental power of his prose.

The story is centered on Laurel Shelton, a young pretty girl living in a rugged mountain cove which has spooked most of the simple townspeople of Mars Hill. Laurel is ostracized by these backward, ignorant folk, not merely because she lives on a struggling farm in the isolated cove they fear is cursed, but because she has a large purple birthmark on her shoulder which in the eyes of the superstitious is the mark of the devil. With the exception of Hank, her veteran of the war brother, Laurel lives a lonely, almost solitary existence forever shadowed by the foreboding gloom and haunting isolation of the cove.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Laurel has lived her whole life in a gloomy cove with her brother Hank. Shunned by the locals for many reasons (they believe the cove is cursed, they believe Laurel a witch, Laurel has a large birthmark, etc..), and kicked out of school early, Laurel's entire life now centers around farm chores and taking care of Hank. Hank is recently back from World War I (still raging) after losing a hand, and he is working to restore the farm in hopes of marrying a local girl. The loneliness each feels particularly Laurel is oppressive. And then Laurel comes across Walter a musician who cannot speak and needs her help. And of course, everything changes.

Rash delivers simply a brutal read capturing a town gripped by superstition and war hysteria. The pacing is perfect and the entire cast of characters feel real and alive. The ominous cove literally seeps off the pages. Even more surprising, Walter's story is based on historic events. In The Cove, Rash creates a timeless and relevant story which is sure to make December's best of lists.
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66 of 82 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ron Rash has a sublime sense of place, atmospheric detail and colloquial manners. The Appalachian landscapes in his novels are vivid, rugged. Colors, smells, and sounds take on a sentient quality, and there's a brutal, timeless delicacy to his terrains. Moment to moment, you move from the crest of creation to the threat of destruction. His stories convey themselves through the power of domain. His latest is a testament to the most fertile aspects of his craft, which shimmer through an otherwise flawed and listless story.

A short, mysterious prologue introduces us to a forbidding, rural North Carolina cove in 1957, and is followed by the main story, which takes place toward the end of WW I on the same rough and haunted turf. Laurel Shelton, an ostracized young woman, believed to be a hexed witch that causes harm and doom to others, lives with her brother, Hank, a disabled soldier recently returned from battle. Hank is engaged to marry a woman whose father needs to be convinced that Hank isn't also possessed. Into their solitary existence comes a mute flautist, Walter, who changes the course of their lives.

The alchemic beauty of the story is largely communed through Rash's formidable powers of description. The cove area, where Laurel and Hank Shelton live, has a supernatural aura. It is evident that the cove's mystical power will impel events along a trenchant course of turmoil and danger. The tension mounts early, with subtle and bold implications of the cove's spectral qualities and the Shelton's cursed history, which are woven inextricably together.

However, there are structural and character-related problems that make this story fall short of the author's intentions.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David J. Robertson on May 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'd heard author Ron Rash interviewed on the radio and "The Cove" sounded like just my cup of tea--a very strong regional novel set in a beautiful, isolated mountain hold, with lots of compelling descriptions of the natural world. And "The Cove" does have all these features in abundance. What it doesn't have is a great set of strong characters or narrative. The main characters are swiftly drawn and then seemingly frozen--there's no development during the several months of their lives that the novel covers. At least one of the characters is a caricature who would be laughable if he weren't so despicable.

Much of the novel proceeds at a very leisurely pace, building a sense of foreboding, but then, inexplicably, the author rushes to denouement. In addition, the lead-up could have produced several equally plausible conclusions--there's no "inevitability" to the story line--so I felt a bit manipulated when Rash chose the ending that he did.

And, despite his oftentimes exquisite descriptions, author Rash would do well to banish "muscadine" and "gloaming" from his vocabulary for the remainder of his writing career.

This novel would have made a good short story.
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