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 Fiction Review    


One Foot in Eden
by Ron Rash
Novello Festival Press, 2003
Hardcover, $21.95 (214 pages)
ISBN: 0-9708972-5-1

It took two readings, spaced some months apart, for me to grasp the hypnotic, magical flow and hill country cadence of this first novel by Ron Rash. However, that says more about me as a reviewing reader than it does about the quality of Ron Rash’s writing. What it says about his writing is: it has the power of a magnet to draw a reader back to its images. 

Told from different points of view, One Foot in Eden on one level is a suspense story of a murder. On another, it becomes a morality tale, brimming with energy just beneath the surface. 

In the beginning, we enter the hill country backwoods of The Borderline with the high sheriff, who like much of “Eden” is more than he appears. A former football player and veteran of WWII, he is a reader of books and a thinker of deep thoughts, when he goes looking for Holland Winchester, whom he knows is about as sorry as they come, he goes about his business in a haphazard fashion. Then, when he begins to realize something terrible has happened, he bares down with more force. 

Next, we view this world through the eyes of prime suspect Billy Holcombe’s wife, who when she can’t get pregnant goes to see Widow Glendower, a witch who lives upstream and who knows how to rattle bones and talk through sticks. 

Ron Rash, a native of the Appalachian mountains about which he writes so beautifully, layers his story with magical resonance that echoes from the very first sound of his people to the seamless quality of their meager actions. No action is described that is not meaningful to the story and its meaning, and the novelist lets you know just enough, like a fine poet chooses his exact words, weighing them, balancing them, carrying them along with meaning heaped upon meaning. 

Ron Rash knows his land and his people. His work reminds me of my old friend Borden Deal who wrote with great authority about the people of north Alabama and north Mississippi. Rash is a poet of Appalachia. As Deal wrote of a white hog in his allegory, “Dragon’s Wine,” and the flooding of the Tennessee River in “Dunbar’s Cove,” Ron Rash unfolds the final chapters of his tale with a flood of biblical proportions. 

There is a quiet rush in Rash’s style, an underlying force that vibrates with drama and pure primitive sexual hunger, images that hold steady in the mind of the reader even after the last page has been experienced. While it took me two readings, it will take most only one. Then you might shiver and go back and look again, for self-satisfaction.


Wayne Greenhaw
Southern Scribe Reviews


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