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on August 27, 2016
There's a good reason the Atlanta Journal Constitution called Ron Rash "one of the major writers of our time." To me, he is this and more. Ron Rash writes in a gritty, mountain vernacular that can't be faked; one has to come from it and know it as their own voice of consciousness in order to wield it as plausibly as he. Rash's language, therefore, is its own reasoning; it speaks of a clear-cut, hard-edged, uncompromising way of living in the world devoid of the illusion of optimism. One wonders, as they read Rash, if it is the jaded wrappings of cynicism or the unvarnished truth behind his tightly crafted novels. This is a writer who delivers the dark notes of beaten humanity in such a way that there is hope. In The World Made Straight, Travis Shelton comes from nothing, on the cusp of manhood in an unforgiving North Carolina mountain community, where drug-dealing is a viable livelihood, in this hardscrabble region with few opportunities outside of one's own wits. It is the glimmer of something more that drives him to prove himself to his rough-hewed, hard-nosed father. Travis seeks to better himself after one fight too many; he leaves the tobacco fields on his family's land and presents himself at the trailer of a local named Leonard, who is both drug-dealer and mentor, in that he is the only one in Travis' sphere who, at one time, amounted to anything, though fate made it short-lived. Under Leonard's influence, Travis pursues his high school GED, while shouldering the fall-out of the one false move he made, when he riled the shackles of local heavy-weight, Carlton Toomey, when he trespassed on his land. These are mountain characters who play by their own lawless rules, in a landscape where it's every man for himself. In a climate still stinging from the horrors of the Civil War, the characters are born beneath the shadow of the ties that atavistically bind them, albeit through a sense of random tribal placement that haunts this story in an unfolding mystery, the impact of which the characters are not completely aware, until the looming puzzle work fits. It is a small world, in The World Made Straight, but it is universal in implication. Self-worth, justice, revenge, and hope against all odds flavors this story, which ends in notes of satisfaction and just deserves.
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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 May 2, 2017
I would give The World Made Straight 2.5 stars if I could, but I feel it is fairer to round up than down. The story has the potential to be great, but the telling fails it. The novel has a somewhat cinematic feel, and I believe this is its downfall. There are so many opportunities missed where Rash tells his story in a few words when the scene deserves many words. This does make for a quick read, but an unsatisfying one as well. Also, there are numerous instances where the characters act out of character, and these instances feel like missed opportunities as well. It's as if Rash wanted to keep the word count down and sacrificed action. I know my opinion is unique concerning this book, and I must say I had high hopes for it. I plan on trying another Rash novel soon. Hopefully it will be what I wanted from this novel.
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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 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 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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on November 23, 2016
Finished this book yesterday after reading it on and off for about three weeks. The characters in the book are developed well, though I think some of the descriptions and plot arcs are repetitive. Rash takes the time to develop an intriguing plot, but the ending of the book is a bit rushed. Regardless, this book is worth the read, especially if you have any interest in Appalachian communities and the aftermath of war. The characters are relatable and easy to sympathize with.
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on March 30, 2014
Since I am from Asheville, it was like going home again. Madison County is one of those places you never forget...I even knew the Ponders as well as other folks who wouldn't think twice about pulling out a shotgun if you pulled into their driveway. The beauty of those mountains is incredible. But there was...and is a lot of harshness. This story is real. A really good read.
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on January 17, 2016
Ron Rash's strong poetic voice conjours up a sense of much loved and well known place, and the distinctive vernacular gives us the people who populate that place. He justaposes the physical beauty of the mountains with the harsh life and limited choices of the people who live there, occasionally escape and, against their better judgment, return. The plot moves fast, spanning time and evoking tribe, and builds to the inevitable destruction of a life so very nearly reclaimed and restored.
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on September 2, 2012
As usual I was not disappointed with this Ron Rash novel. I now have read all but one of his novels, but have yet to try his poetry and short stories.

This novel takes place in the mountains of North Carolina, and has to do with drugs, marijuana, and a boy trying to better himself. His mentor and housemate, a former high school teacher, is helping him pass his GED, and is trying to show him the opportunities he has available to him.

Without these opportunities the boy has the option of being a wastrel like his friends, hanging around drinking and using drugs. This book is about the choices these two characters, the boy and his mentor, make.
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