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The World Made Straight


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About the Author

Ron Rash is the author of the prize-winning novels One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River and The World Made Straight, as well as several collections of poetry and short stories. He is the recipient of an O. Henry Prize and the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. For Saints at the River he received the 2004 Weatherford Award for Best Novel and the 2005 SEBA Best Book Award for Fiction. Rash holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and lives in Clemson, South Carolina.


Rash's finely wrought third novel (after Saints at the River) follows the wayward trajectory of high school dropout Travis Shelton, who stumbles on a neighbor's crop of marijuana while out fishing in Madison County, N.C. He steals a few plants to sell to Leonard Shuler, a divorced and disgraced former high school teacher, who is living in a trailer and selling drugs. Travis has a violent run-in with the father-and-son Toomeys, who own the crop, and is left hospitalized and homeless. He moves in with Leonard and his pill-popping girlfriend. There, Travis and Leonard study the Civil War ledgers and journals of a Dr. Candler, and learn of the county's seismic upheaval during the Shelton Laurel Massacre and its aftermath. Meanwhile, the Toomeys, who do business with Leonard, are not finished exacting their pound of flesh, this time from Leonard. Rash's vivid prose depicts his characters' dependence on drugs, alcohol and hell-raising with sympathy, rendering their shared sense of futility and economic entrapment without sentimentality or easy answers. The Civil War sections are less successful, but they convey the past's hold on the present and ground Rash's Appalachian wanderers in a shared vision of American immobility. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"a superb tale of redemption and healing.... Vividly enriched by clear, concise prose.... A beautifully rendered palimpsest." BookPage"

Rash (Appalachian studies, Western Carolina Univ.; Raising the Dead) once again succeeds in offering a convincing portrayal of Southern life. Protagonist Travis Shelton drops out of high school and loses his job at the local grocer's. With no money and no prospects, he resorts to stealing marijuana from the town's most savage drug dealer, Carlton Toomey, but on his third attempt is caught in a bear trap set by Toomey to catch the thief. After a brief hospital stay, Travis moves into a trailer with Leonard Shuler, a schoolteacher-turned-dealer who has lost his teaching license and family. As time passes, Travis becomes deeply involved in studying Leonard's books, and Leonard realizes the boy's potential for success outside their small town. Their eccentric friendship provides Travis with a final opportunity to outrun his violent ancestry and make something great of his future. Rash's prose demonstrates a deep understanding of the characters and their dialect. But while good, this novel does not possess that something extra to set it apart from similar fare. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.-Stephen Morrow, Amherst, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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