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North Carolina on the Map and in the News

REDEMPTION IN THE IMPRISONING MOUNTAINS a review by Savannah Paige Murray Ron Rash. The Risen: A Novel. New York: Ecco, 2016.

SAVANNAH PAIGE MURRAY is pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric & Writing at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She recently completed her master’s degree in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University, where her thesis examined John Ehle’s use of the post-pastoral in his “Mountain Novels” set in western North Carolina.

OPPOSITE LEFT Ron Rash at his home in

Sylva, NC, 2015

Although born in Chester, SC, for novelist, poet, and short story writer Ron Rash, home was always the mountains of North Carolina. Over the past decade, Rash has become the voice of these mountains, a writer who reminds readers of the value, legacy, and promise of Appalachian culture. As John Lang describes in Understanding Ron Rash, Rash works to “commemorate Appalachian history and culture,” an impulse that arises “not from nostalgia but from his conviction of that culture’s ongoing relevance to fundamental human concerns.” Lang emphasizes that loss, mortality, and familial bonds are all “central to Rash’s literary vision, one that is simultaneously, self-consciously regional and universal.” Rash believes that writing well about one place holds truths for all places and people. In his essay on “The Importance of Place,” Rash asserts “one of the most interesting aspects of literature is how the most intensely regional literature is often the most universal.”* In his latest novel, The Risen, Rash delivers a regional murder mystery that poses universal questions about loss, mortality, and familial bonds, and leaves readers wondering what happens to those who do not achieve the life they once desired. In The Risen, readers meet protagonist Eugene Matney, an alcoholic writer who cannot seem to put words to page as easily as he can put his lips to a liquor bottle. Eugene is well-acquainted with loss. Estranged from his only daughter, divorced from his wife, and alienated from his community,

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Eugene is a man haunted by the missteps of his past. When an unidentified corpse is discovered in Eugene’s hometown of Sylva, NC, he begins to seriously contemplate the sins of his youth, as a teenager who discovered sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll in the summer of 1969. For Eugene this loss of innocence came in the form of Ligeia Moseley, a redheaded “mermaid” who seduced both Eugene and his older brother encouraging Eugene to sneak Quaaludes from his grandfather’s medical office and buy beer before meeting up with her down at Panther Creek. But forty-six years later, when Eugene reads the headline “Remains Identified as Jane Moseley” and realizes that Ligeia never successfully left town as she had planned but had in fact died by their old hangout along Panther Creek, he “crawled into that whiskey bottle and stayed there” (10). Eugene tells us in the novel’s opening line that “[f]rom the beginning, Ligeia’s ability to appear or disappear seemed magical” (5). But unfortunately for Eugene, Ligeia has never disappeared from his memory, and the version of his future self that Ligeia inspired haunts Eugene nearly half a century after her disappearance. Throughout the novel, Eugene addresses readers in the first person, flitting back and forth between memories of his brief but intimate affair with Ligeia and the present-day worries elicited by the discovery of her corpse. Between memories of childhood and the pains of adulthood, there is an endearing common

* John Lang, Understanding Ron Rash (Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2014): 4–5; Ron Rash, “On Writing: The Importance of Place,” Marly Rusoff Literary Agency: web.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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