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VINE VOICEon April 4, 2006
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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on May 18, 2006
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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on May 8, 2006
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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on October 19, 2008
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. There's a violent ending to go with the dark beginning, but in between there simply isn't the power that could have been there. It might have been better for the author to stick more with the drug dealing, the marijuana growing, etc.

So I would give the short story Speckled Trout a solid 5 stars, and I'd give The World Made Straight that same 5 stars for the beginning (which is the short story) and the ending, and in-between I'd give it 3 stars. By contrast, Serena rates 5 stars throughout the novel.
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on November 7, 2014
This is the third novel by Ron Rash that I have read, Mr. Rash never fails to impress me with his writing style. The World Made Straight introduces us to a way of life many cannot imagine, and his way of telling this story makes you feel that you are right there.

I am so looking forward to picking up his next novel, and suggest this author as one to definitely read.
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on August 20, 2006
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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on July 19, 2006
I've been reading novels written by the poet Ron Rash since they began appearing in 2003. The first, "One Foot in Eden," is so remarkable I read it twice in a week. His latest, "The World Made Straight," is also fine: begins with great tension, quietens to a deep study of major and minor characters, then rises to a finish as complex and irresolvable as life. His poet's language is wonderful without showing off, e.g., "No moon was out, and the stars had yet to pitch their tents and spark their small fires." Strongly recommend.
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on January 31, 2014
Ron Rash tells a compelling story. From about the fifth page, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. In a tale somewhat reminiscent of Winter's Bone, he builds quite a bit of pathos for his two main characters--an ex-teacher now drug dealer and a high school boy with an abusive father. It wraps up somewhat unrealistically, with some of the characters needing more fleshing out. However, it will be hard to forget Carlton Tooney, the kingpin of the Appalachian town, who can sing like an angel but whom it would be most unwise to cross. Rash is a talented writer, who creates vivid images and pitch-perfect sentences. The book is short, and there is plenty of rich material there that could have been expanded so that the characters' motives were more convincing and some loose ends handled a bit better. Overall, though, I enjoyed it.
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on January 18, 2016
In Ron Rash I have discovered a writer who writes well about the place that I love best, the southern Blue Ridge Mts of NC. This book is a story about redemption but it is also a story about the mountains and the way our geographic surroundings help shape our lives. Landscape as destiny. A 17 yr old boy out fishing happens upon a small outdoor marijuana grow and helps himself to five plants. He sells same to the local dealer who lives in a backwoods trailer with his quaalude queen. The story rolls on from there. The backdrop story is the 1863 Shelton Laurel Massacre and our main characters had kin involved in that incident. Most of the folks in the story are most likely descendants of Scots-Irish yeoman farmers who settled in the mountains in the late 1700s. Men still work in their tobacco patches, women sew their own dresses and the children hope for a better life. Life is not easy for all these folks in the late 1970s but there is beauty and goodness to be found in the mountains. The story is set in Madison Co., NC north of Asheville. I personally liked One Foot in Eden more than this book but enjoyed both. Currently reading The Cove. Rash is an intelligent writer who weaves together a good story. Recommend his books.
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on October 23, 2015
Up front: I'm a big fan of Ron Rash. His style, his craft, his storytelling. When I read this man I learn from this man.

That said, I realize that this book will not be to everyone's liking. Some have pointed out the slow pace in the middle. Others, the unsatisfying ending. I won't give any spoilers here. Suffice to say:

This book is Ron Rash the modern Southern gothic writer. Place means all and is all. Land mattes. Your people matter. What stock you come from matters. To someone born and raised in New York City or the Midwest, this will likely mean little to nothing. But to the people Ron Rash is writing about, it means their world. It *is* their world. His prose is at times light and tender, and at other times it is poetic and piercing, reaching into the beautiful spaces where some unwanted truths may be found.

Recommended for those interested in reading what new Southern gothic looks like. Highly recommended for fans of Flannery O'Connor and wondering if anyone could pick up where she left off. Answer: yes. It's Ron Rash.

I love it:
5/5 Goodreads
5/5 Amazon
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