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Burning Bright: Stories Hardcover – March 9, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest from Rash (Serena), a collection, begins with Hard Times, in which a struggling farmer in the midst of the Great Depression tries to discover who's stealing eggs from his henhouse without offending the volatile pride of his impoverished neighbors. The present-day stories are also situated in poverty-plagued small towns whose young citizens are being lost to meth addictions: in Back of Beyond, a pawnshop owner has to intervene when he learns his nephew Danny has kicked his parents out of their house and sold off their furniture to support his habit; in The Ascent, a young boy lovingly tends to a couple of corpses—victims of a small plane crash. Rash's stories are calm, dark and overtly symbolic, sometimes so literal they verge on redundant: in Dead Confederates, when a man falls into the Confederate tomb he's looting, the graveyard caretaker notes: I'd say he's helped dig his own grave. With a mastery of dialogue, Rash has written a tribute and a pre-emptive eulogy for the hardworking, straight-talking farmers of the Appalachian Mountains. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Born and raised in the Carolinas, Rash—also a poet and novelist (Serena, 2008)—has become known as a writer of Appalachia. Although these 12 stories are set in that region, in times ranging from the Civil War to today, they display a universality that goes beyond time or place. Rash’s characters, often struggling to make their way in the world, act as they believe they must to save what is dear to them—family members, a marriage, a heritage, a nation, and even a neighbor’s child. In the title story, a woman widowed and remarried to a younger handyman drifter lies to protect her husband, despite what she knows in her heart. In this, as in other stories, Rash leaves the reader with thoughts of the near-inevitable aftermath and its consequences. There is a purity and precision in Rash’s prose, reminiscent of his poetry, that makes these stories as deceptively easy to read as they are hard to forget. This is memorable, unflinching short fiction by a master of the form. --Michele Leber

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061804118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061804113
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,075,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This superb intense twelve story collection focuses on the people of Appalachia who though impoverished refuse to give up their pride even as they seek a shimmer of happiness. The well written stories are very short with the longest being 30 pages; yet each goes deep baring the darkness of the soul with slight flickers of light that sputter allegorically.

Opening with "Hard Times" in which a Depression Era farmer's wife insists the impoverished neighbors' dog is stealing their eggs; when confronted the patriarch neighbor slices the throat of his canine to prove he was not the thief. Fishing for the felon proves shockingly successful. In sixteen pages, Ron Rash provides a cast of poor people struggling with survival but doing so with pride. That theme is throughout the anthology whether it is the young turning to meth "Back of Beyond" in which a pawn shop owner knows who the addicts are as they are his best customers including his nephew. "The Ascent" focuses on a tweener who makes a family with corpses in a crashed plane he finds. Whether he centers on the Civil War with "Dead Confederates" and "Lincolnites", the Great Depression ("Hard Times") or the present, Mr. Nash provides his readers with a profound look at the people of Appalachia where pride and hard work battle poverty and drugs.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
I think Ron Rash is such a fine writer, with an elegance that belies the grittiness of his stories. He obviously knows his subject matter well and is able to make us feel his characters' pain and the toughness of their lives. His stories all have a strong sense of place and show his years of Appalachian heritage. Imbued with a quiet beauty, each story paints a complete picture.

His beautiful and lyrical language just grabs the reader and does not let go. Here is something that just was so touching:

"He imagined towns where hungry men hung on boxcars looking for work that couldn't be found, shacks where families lived who didn't even have one swaybacked milk cow. He imagined cities where blood stained the sidewalks beneath buildings tall as ridges. He tried to imagine a place worse than where he was."

The stories in this book span the time from the Civil War through the present time and touch on a variety of subjects: poverty, family, job loss. Each story shows its characters' fortitude and endurance...and the grace with which they carry on every day.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The characters in Ron Rash's new collection of stories are country people. Some still live on the home place, some are a generation removed residing in nearby small towns. His country, and theirs, is Appalachia -- Virginia, the Carolinas, the Blue Ridge and the Great Smokey mountains. He knows these people well, knows what keeps them in place and what holds them down. Most of them are in a bad way, out of work, broke, in trouble at home, crossways with the sheriff, the boss, the park police. They are gritty, resentful of authority and willing to resort to self-help to head off the law, the bank, the prying neighbor. In "Back of Beyond" and in "The Ascent," two of the most affecting stories in the collection, Rash combs through the family wreckage caused by crystal meth addiction. The stories create a fictional bridge to Nick Redding's 2009 book-length treatment of the epidemic, "Methland: The Death and Life of An American Small Town." In "Dead Confederates," the reenactment boys get their comeuppance and in "Lincolnites," a Confederate soldier forages at his own risk when he takes on a young farm wife with Union sympathies. Impressed as I am by the stark realism of and dark humor in these stories, I longed for a tall tale or two on the order of "Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes," the opening story in "Chemistry and Other Stories," Rash's 2007 collection. Next time, perhaps. Finally, a word to the squeamish. Save "Hard Times," the first story in the book, for last. It is such a disquieting metaphor for the deprivation endured by so many Americans in the current recession that you might be discouraged from reading the others and there is not one story here that you will want to skip.
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Format: Hardcover
No other writer in America can show us that instant when a desperate heart breaks in stories at once stark and tender like Ron Rash does. His characters are sometimes aware that they are on the edge of sanity or that they are about to make a painful discovery, but they just as often miss the moment and know that another chance for redemption may never again pause for their hesistant grasp. They are caught up in drifts of fate and cannot remember making that first misstep, they make bad decisions and spend their rueful lives wishing their deeds undone, or they realize that no one lives a simple life, that every passing moment is another loss, and that the only viable responses may be to laugh, perform a small act of kindness, and try to endure.

Despite the grim and sometimes violent circumstances in which his stories emerge, Rash has an amazing sense of humor. Who else can make you laugh about meth addicts who rob their families, men who would rather see his children starve than accept a handout, and thieves desecrating confederate graves?

This is an extraordinary collection of stories that will make your own imagination burn bright.
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