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One Foot in Eden: A Novel Paperback – January 3, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Rash's moody, potent slice of Southern gothic fiction centers on a murder and its devastating effect on a small Appalachian town in the 1950s. When Holland Winchester, local troublemaker in tiny Seneca, S.C., vanishes without a trace, it's up to town sheriff and WWII veteran Will Alexander to search for answers. Holland's mother claims to have heard a gunshot, and she insists that neighbor Billy Holcombe killed her son. Events unfurl slowly and methodically, and it's soon revealed that Billy's pregnant wife, Amy, had been having an affair with Holland. Shifting from Sheriff Alexander's narration, the story continues in Amy's voice as she recounts her frustration with Billy's sterility and her increasingly desperate need to bear a child. An impulsive visit to a spell-weaving widow for advice proves to be Amy's downfall when she's told that if her husband can't give her a child, she should "lay down with a man who can." The ensuing drama of infidelity, jealousy and betrayal is told by a chorus of characters with distinctive Appalachian voices: chief among them are Amy, Billy and Amy's young son, Isaac, whose discovery of the identity of his real father is both heartbreaking and liberating. As the valley is flooded to make room for a power company's land takeover, further tragedies unfold. Poet and short story writer Rash writes lyrically while maintaining the suspense of the central mystery. As each character reveals his or her secrets, the tale builds into a quiet storm-and a terrific first novel.
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“A classic tale of passion and tragedy. Each voice rings as true as the sound of an ax in the cold early morning air.” ―Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls
“Equal parts vintage crime novel and Southern Gothic, full of aching ambivalence and hard compromises, and rounded off by bad faith and bad choices, One Foot in Eden is a veritable garden of earthly disquiet.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Ruggedly beautiful...Reading Rash's tale is like listening to a plaintive mountain ballad about a time and place long vanished: the lyrics are sweet and mournful, wistful and dark. And, oh, does One Foot in Eden linger!” ―The Charlotte Observer
“Rash's characters have a heroic quality as they struggle to fill the empty spaces in their hearts. They also have a poetic intensity.” ―The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“One Foot In Eden is a story of wild, almost primitive force and yet it is neatly and ingeniously put together. Ron Rash knows to the core the ways of those who yearn for what is just beyond their grasp. Here is a lasting experience.” ―Fred Chappell, Poet Laureate of North Carolina
“Ron Rash writes like a prince!” ―Pat Conroy
“One Foot in Eden is a forceful but never forced narrative. Rash moves his tragedy along with great authority, revealing motives that build to the complexity of each character as well as our fascination with them and the outcome of their lives. It is a finely polished novel.” ―The Columbia State
“If you are a fan of writers such as Robert Morgan, Lee Smith and Fred Chappell, you'll be pleased to know they liked this novel and wrote glowing jacket notes. And no wonder: One Foot In Eden could have been written by any of these authors....Save yourself a nice stretch of time for this book. Once you start it, you will find it extremely hard to put down.” ―The Anderson Independent
“In this fine, passionate work, Rash combines a murder mystery with the occasion of the flooding of a South Carolina Appalachian valley by Carolina power. The story of One Foot In Eden is simple, elemental. The conclusion has the force and inevitability of real tragedy...a tragedy that occurs in the ancient, brooding mountains of the Southern Appalachians.” ―Don Noble, Alabama Public Radio
Top customer reviews
Jocassee is no longer a small rural farming community. In 1973, the local power utility emptied the settlement of its inhabitants and flooded the community, making Jocassee Dam. This very real event brings events in the story to the final crescendo. A very good book.
For a first novel, this is a wonderful effort. The story explores a "murder mystery" through five different first-person narrators. This drives the narrative and the suspense of the story, of the who, the why, and the how. But the center of the story is the unfolding and never-ending effects of living with life choices, and chance--and how both can haunt lives for years. The language is at once simple and poetic; the voices are plain but deep and well crafted. (Mr. Rash is also a poet, and that side of him is evident on every page of this novel.)
There were a few story loopholes that didn't sit well with me. But the force of the narrative and Mr. Rash's skills as a storyteller and poet overpowered these in the end.
Highly recommended for such an engaging and well-plotted story, use of narrative and language, all packed into 214 pages.
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