Ron Rash’s novel Serena tells the story of Serena and George Pemberton’s life in the North Carolina timber country. The newlyweds return to their timber land to oversee the removal of all trees from their land. From the start, Serena is not a woman typical of her era and class. She has a mysterious past and unlike Pembertons’ partners wives Serena rides out with the men to oversee the workers.

Serena takes on a mythical character amongst the workers when she trains an eagle to kill the rattlesnakes that populate the timber area. Serena is the center of the story and she’s a woman that knows what she wants and is not afraid to get her hands dirty. Her absolute disregard for the land that has become her home is shocking to the workers who witness the increase in rats in their home due to her playing God with the rattlesnakes and introducing an unnatural predator. She treats the land and the people as a means to an end. Rash portrays her as a psychopath with zero compassion for anyone and absolute no regard for the environment. She only cares how people and the land can further her own profit.

Rash created a wonderful antihero masked by raw beauty and heroism. Whenever I thought her depravity couldn’t go further, Serena surprised me. This was a great read and very educational about what was/is probably a common mindset of those who raze the land with no intentions to help it heal.

Read January 2014


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