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The World Made Straight: A Novel Paperback – March 20, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rash's finely wrought third novel (after Saints at the River) follows the wayward trajectory of high school dropout Travis Shelton, who stumbles on a neighbor's crop of marijuana while out fishing in Madison County, N.C. He steals a few plants to sell to Leonard Shuler, a divorced and disgraced former high school teacher, who is living in a trailer and selling drugs. Travis has a violent run-in with the father-and-son Toomeys, who own the crop, and is left hospitalized and homeless. He moves in with Leonard and his pill-popping girlfriend. There, Travis and Leonard study the Civil War ledgers and journals of a Dr. Candler, and learn of the county's seismic upheaval during the Shelton Laurel Massacre and its aftermath. Meanwhile, the Toomeys, who do business with Leonard, are not finished exacting their pound of flesh, this time from Leonard. Rash's vivid prose depicts his characters' dependence on drugs, alcohol and hell-raising with sympathy, rendering their shared sense of futility and economic entrapment without sentimentality or easy answers. The Civil War sections are less successful, but they convey the past's hold on the present and ground Rash's Appalachian wanderers in a shared vision of American immobility.
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

High-schooler Travis Shelton steals one too many marijuana plants from vicious tobacco-farmer-turned-drug-dealer Carlton Toomey and ends up caught in a bear trap, his foot so mangled he needs surgery. Travis' stern father kicks him out, and he ends up bunking at the rundown trailer of bookish Leonard Shuler, a low-level drug dealer and former schoolteacher who lost his job and his family because of false charges. Leonard sees in Travis something of himself in his youth, when he used his intelligence to outrun the fate that lies in store for so many of the region's poverty-stricken residents. He bonds with the boy over their shared fascination with a local Civil War incident, a massacre that divided the town. Just as Leonard starts to get his own life in order and talks Travis into making plans for college, he becomes enmeshed in a confrontation with Toomey. Part melancholy historical novel and part high-voltage thriller, this third novel from the talented Rash will appeal to readers who like their suspense done with literary flair. Joanne Wilkinson
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: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (March 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426606
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,492 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've been a big fan of Ron Rash since I accidently discovered One Foot in Eden. I've tried hard to get my library patrons to sign on the Rash bandwagon with some success. Saints at the River was a wonderful book about mountain people as they really are. The World Made Straight is another book about real people; the flesh and bone of people caught up in the realities of life in 2006.

Travis, a modern teenage high school drop-out living in Madison County North Carolina discovers a field of marijuana while fishing. Taking a few plants, he sells them and makes enough money to pay his insurance on his truck. Enjoying his new found liquidity, he returns a second time with an equal bonus to his cash position. Going back a third time spells disaster, however and nearly costs him his leg.

Travis also has a falling out with his father and takes up with Leonard, an interesting character. Their relationship develops in a unique way and adds much to the novel.

This story flirts with the Civil War as it was fought in the North Carolina mountains, where brother against brother was far truer than perhaps anyother place. Leonard, an educated man, directs Travis' natural curosity and manages to teach the young man the value of an education. Interesting.

Ron Rash, a native of the mountains of the Carolina's has the people of that area down cold. The characters and their situations come to life on the page. Anyone who has lived in the area will recognize it immediately through Rash's masterful descriptions of the area and the way he develops his characters.

The World Made Straight is a good read, but not quite up to One Foot in Eden. Still, Ron Rash is rapidly developing into a marvelous storyteller.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By S. Lee on May 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Personally, I think this book was Rash's best. It may have not been as fast-paced as his other fiction, but I don't think it made it any less compelling. In fact, his hold on pace and the power of the moment are some of his greatest gifts, and made 'A World Made Straight' a wonderful read.
I appreciated Travis Shelton's honesty, and love for the land. Even with the harsh world around him, and the misfortunes into which he was born, he doesn't seem to be affected by it to the point that he loses that youthful hunger for knowledge.
To me, the characters were living breathing beings that really caused me to immerse myself in the story; the same with his other fiction. You could feel their pain as well as their accomplishments, and the reader wants to stay with them long after the last page is turned.
Similar to Silas House with his astounding detail for nature, and to Ira Levin with his ability to make his characters as familiar as your own next door neighbors, Ron Rash will long be an important voice for Southern Lit, for a very long time.
With heart, fairness, and an uncomplicated prose, his novels are the perfect way to remind ourselves of the standard of truly exceptional writing. Don't miss this book!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Shipley on May 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put this down, from the first fishing trip that turns into a life-changing trap, to the final decisions two young men--and older men--have to make about their history, their lives and their role in re-living or changing history. Powerful book. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Dunn on August 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I think that even dedicated fans of Ron Rash's work will be surprised at how good this book is. I've been a fan since I heard Rash read from his first book of poems, and I've followed every volume of poetry and every novel since.

As good as his previous novels were, The World Made Straight represents a major step and establishes Rash as one of the most important American writers working today. The writing is astoundingly good, and the story and characters are compelling. I particularly like the manner in which Rash captures the landscape of hills and waters of Madison County in Western North Carolina.

The story connects a two men struggling in their lives with the story of the younger man's ancestors' involvement in the Shelton Laurel massacre of the Civil War. All of the components of the story are fascinating on their own, and Rash weaves them together almost effortlessly, it seems, and you feel pulled into the narrative.

When I hear of a forthcoming Rash book, I've come to look forward to it in the same way I do a new book by Reynolds Price, or Anne Tyler, or Sherman Alexie. I look forward to his new poems like Mark Doty's or Mary Oliver's. It's been incrdibly satisfying to watch his body of work develop over the past decade, and I recommed him to everyone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on October 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The World Made Straight is an expansion of the short story "Speckled Trout" in the author's short story collection Chemistry. Another short story in that book. Pemberton's Bride, has just been expanded and released as a powerful and harrowing novel Serena. The short story centered on Travis Shelton, who discovers a marijuana patch owned by the Toomey family. Travis steals a few plants and sells them to Leonard Shuler, an ex-teacher who now makes his living dealing drugs. Travis gets a little too greedy, and on one of his return visits to steal more marijuana plants is caught by the 300-lb Carlton Toomey in a bear trap. The short story ends in an ambiguous manner--but the expectation is that Toomey will probably kill Travis. On the expansion into the novel, Travis is not, however killed, Leonard Shuler assumes a major role, and Carlton Toomey and his son Hubert are darkly looming presences.

The short story was tight, powerful, and dark. The expansion into a full-length novel fails to sustain the sense of power. Serena, by contrast, fully maintains the brooding dark depths of the short story Pemberton's Bride. Travis, disowned by his father, moves into Leonard's house trailer that Leonard shares with Dena, who is not exactly Leonard's girlfriend. Dena is a maddeningly unsatisfying element of the novel--she shares Leonard's bed, but is heavily into drugs and "dates" other men. Leonard doesn't seem to like her very much. She makes it more difficult to relate to Leonard. Much of the novel is devoted to Leonard showing Travis a Civil War battlefield and helping him get his GED. Leonard likes classical music and reading--the book's title comes from Handel's Messiah.
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