I, along with legions of others, have waited for months for In the Valley to release. Everything you’d hope for from Ron Rash is within this collection of short stories– his trademark, laser-sharp realism, poetic prose, and fully realized Appalachian vignettes of life wrapped in tight construction. All short stories are hymns to the art of world-building, rich in visceral setting and written with vernacular that sets the mood and tone. Simply put, Ron Rash is a league of his own, and this highly anticipated, critically acclaimed book is on par with all others in his stellar body of work.
If you’ve never read anything by Ron Rash, his collections of short stories are a great place to start, as is his poetry, which is starkly real yet emotional to the point of being visually panoramic. Two of his novels have been made into movies: The World Made Straight, and Serena. Serena seems to be his most widely read book. It’s title character is one of the more diabolical, female characters ever written! In his new release, Rash continued the story of Serena by including a novella among the short stories.
Here are a few book blurbs for In the Valley. I’ve included more to whet your whistle for a taste of the American writer referred to as the Appalachian Shakespeare.
“Mesmerizing…He’s one of the best living American writers.”–Janet Maslin, New York Times Book Review
From bestselling and award-winning writer Ron Rash (“One of the great American authors at work today.”–The New York Times) comes a collection of ten searing stories and the return of the villainess who propelled Serena to national acclaim, in a long-awaited novella.
Ron Rash has long been a revered presence in the landscape of American letters. A virtuosic novelist, poet, and story writer, he evokes the beauty and brutality of the land, the relentless tension between past and present, and the unquenchable human desire to be a little bit better than circumstances would seem to allow (to paraphrase Faulkner).
In these ten stories, Rash spins a haunting allegory of the times we live in–rampant capitalism, the severing of ties to the natural world in the relentless hunt for profit, the destruction of body and soul with pills meant to mute our pain–and yet within this world he illuminates acts of extraordinary decency and heroism. Two of the stories have already been singled out for accolades: “Baptism” was chosen by Roxane Gay for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2018, and “Neighbors” was selected by Jonathan Lethem for The Best American Mystery Stories 2019. And in revisiting Serena Pemberton, Rash updates his bestselling parable of greed run amok as his deliciously vindictive heroine returns to the North Carolina wilderness she left scarred and desecrated to make one final effort to kill the child that threatens all she has accomplished.
I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with Ron Rash in person a few times, over the years. You’ll never meet a more humble guy! It was my complete honor to introduce him to the audience at the Pat Conroy Literary Festival in 2017, in Beaufort, South Carolina, when he was the festival’s key note speaker.
More written about this world-renowned writer:
“A gorgeous, brutal writer” (Richard Price) working at the height of his powers, Ron Rash has created another mesmerizing look at the imperfect world around us.
Rash’s poems and stories have appeared in more than 100 magazines and journals. Serena received enthusiastic reviews across and beyond the United States and was a 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist.
In addition to being a bestselling novelist, Rash has achieved international acclaim as a short story author, winning the Frank O’Connor Award in 2010 for Burning Bright.  Recent work such as The Outlaws (Oxford American, Summer, 2013) focused on ordinary lives in southern Appalachia. Scholars have praised his ability to find the universal within the particulars of place, citing his writing’s “universal appeal, lyrical grace, and narrative efficiency.”  Jim Coby examined Rash’s use of mystery thriller tropes in One Foot in Eden.
Ron Rash holds the John and Dorothy Parris Professorship in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, where he teaches poetry and fiction-writing in the Department of English.
To familiarize you with his body of work before the release of In the Valley, here is a list that excludes his poetry, which I highly recommend!
Publication Order of Standalone Novels
Publication Order of Short Story Collections
To read Ron Rash is to engage in a memorable experience!