Serena by Ron Rash
Wow. What a brutal story. Or, what a story about brutal people. The book starts with a murder and ends with one, with several in between. But with all this killing going on, what makes me squeamish to the point where I almost pass out while reading? A graphically detailed account of a blood transfusion. Not the first time that's happened, by the way....
Anyway, the premise of the book is lust for power and how it destroys, and this plays out in a logging camp in western North Carolina in 1929, and a secondary plotline deals with the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. George Pemberton brings his new bride, Serena, back from Boston, and she quickly proves herself the equal of any man out there. Before Serena was in the picture, Pemberton fathered an illegitmate child with a 17-year-old camp worker, Rachel. Rachel quickly became my favorite character in the novel, along with a Greek chorus of camp workers and Sheriff McDowell, one of the few people who try to bring the Pembertons to justice. It is impossible to like the viscious, evil Serena and her almost-as-vile husband. Actually, there was a time in the last quarter of the book where I kind of felt bad for ol' Pemberton, but it didn't last long. It's hard to have empathy for people who just cold-bloodedly kill people that get in their way.
Well-written, haunting, with a satisfying ending.
5 stars out of 5.