I learned of Ron Rash from reading the McLean and Eakin bookstore staff recommendations - thank you Jessilynn! Rash does not disappoint. In Saints at the River, a young girl drowns in a river in South Carolina, stirring up local debate about how to recover her body. As an environmentally protected river, the law states that the riverbed shall not be altered in any way. The possibility of erecting a temporary dam is proposed by the girl's family. Maggie Glenn, a photographer who grew up in the area, is assigned to cover the story alongside journalist Allen Hemphill. As Maggie returns to her hometown, she must confront her troubled relationship with her father. Throughout the book, the river rushes forward and is impossible to tame, proving that there are some things that are better left wild and unbridled.
Burning Bright is a collection of stories that focuses on the hardscrabble life in Appalachia. Straight out of the gate, Rash's first story is shocking in its starkness and depiction of the depths of poverty. Some of his stories are merely ten pages long, yet still he packs a punch and engages you in the characters' lives from the first few sentences.
Neither of these books were uplifting with tidy endings. But the honest, unflinching look at the maelstrom of human emotion, desperation, conviction, and struggle is captured in deceptively simple and beautiful language in both works.