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4.2 out of 5 stars
The World Made Straight: A Novel
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 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. 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The past reaches long, cold fingers into the present as seventeen-year-old Travis Shelton searches for identity in North Carolina. A high school drop out, Travis is the child of an unhappy home, a solicitous, if helpless, mother and an always dissatisfied father who never has anything good to say about his son. While trespassing after fishing nearby, Travis happens upon a marijuana crop and cannot resist the urge to cut down some of the plants. Travis delivers this bounty to the dilapidated trailer of a local dope dealer, Leonard Shuler. Shuler accepts the pot, no questions asked, so Shelton returns a second time. On his third visit, Travis meets with a predictable "accident", his leg caught in a bear trap set by Carlton Toomey, the one man no one wants to fool with in this part of the country. Toomey releases the boy, first exacting a promise that he will never tell about the illegal plants or the trap. Desperate and in pain, Travis agrees.

After his release and a few days in the hospital, Travis returns home only to receive more abuse from his father. Tired of years of disrespect, Travis shows up on Shuler's doorstep, suitcase in hand. The ex-school teacher turned drug dealer doesn't turn the boy away, although he can't justify the decision to let Travis stay either, especially since he already has a female guest, the battered Dena, just a step from the gutter. The three coexist, Travis even acquiring a girlfriend, a candy striper he met in the hospital. It seems there is a place in the world for three castoffs, at least temporarily. Leonard even discovers Travis' curiosity about his own history, a family connection with the Shelton Laurel Massacre. Supporting the boy's interest in his ancestry and a general willingness to learn, the two visit the site of the killings. After a while, Travis even considers getting his GED. Then fate intervenes, as it always does, once more in the form of Carlton Toomey.

In a country that breeds such men as Toomey, there are many who fall victim, neither Leonard nor Travis exceptions. But Leonard has unwittingly nurtured something more in Travis, the beginnings of self-respect and an innate sense of injustice. A sudden violence brought to its logical conclusion in the rugged hills, the very same area where Travis' relatives were mowed down, the boy-about-to-become-man finds that he can no longer countenance his own inaction in the face of brutality. Regardless of the consequences, Travis takes his lessons to heart. Luan Gaines/2007.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Few writers can expose the complexities in an array of characters like Ron Rash. Just when you think you know who're the bad guys and who're the good guys, Rash shows us that below the surface we all struggle with soical pressures, we all try desperately to overcome our fears and inadequacies, and none of us can hold on to the truth long enough to look it fully in the face.

Rash is indeed a Southern writer, but don't look for stereotypes here. He has studied his people with anthropologist's and insider's eyes and illustrates how complex the South, even one particular Southern region, is.

Read only a page, and you will surely guess (and you'll be correct) that Rash is also a poet. Some of the passages in this and his other novels are lyrically astonishing, and even more amazing is that they never distract from the narrative.

Don't miss this major American writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book that I read by Ron Rash and it left me wanting more. I thought it was a great book with characters that we can relate too and (as always with Rash) wonderful scenery. I however don't think that this is his best book as I feel "One Foot in Eden" was a better novel, but I would recommend this book to anyone. I did give it five stars for the simple fact of it introducing me to an amazing author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
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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