Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay

3.5 6
by Ron Rash

See All Formats & Editions

From Ron Rash, PEN / Faulkner Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Serena, comes a new collection of unforgettable stories set in Appalachia that focuses on the lives of those haunted by violence and tenderness, hope and fear—spanning the Civil War to the present day. 

The darkness of Ron Rash’s work contrasts


From Ron Rash, PEN / Faulkner Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Serena, comes a new collection of unforgettable stories set in Appalachia that focuses on the lives of those haunted by violence and tenderness, hope and fear—spanning the Civil War to the present day. 

The darkness of Ron Rash’s work contrasts with its unexpected sensitivity and stark beauty in a manner that could only be accomplished by this master of the short story form.

Nothing Gold Can Stay includes 14 stories, including Rash’s “The Trusty,” which first appeared in The New Yorker.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Ron Rash's new short story collection…is this Appalachian author's best book since his 2008 SerenaNothing Gold Can Stay is excitingly versatile, covering time periods from the Civil War to the present and ranging in mood from wryly comic to brutal. The 14 stories are united by clean, tough specificity, courtly backwoods diction, and a capacity for sending shivers.
The Washington Post - Michael Lindgren
With Nothing Gold Can Stay, Ron Rash cements his reputation as one of the foremost chroniclers of that mythic uber-America known as the South. Rash's new stories depict, with almost anthropological precision, a proud, poverty-scarred milieu "where checkbooks never quite balanced and repo men and pawnbrokers loomed one turn of bad luck away."
Wall Street Journal
“Crime, with its violence, threads through the butcher’s-dozen of stories in the author’s masterly 14th book, Nothing Gold Can Stay, as inexorably as it winds through the problematic lives of his Appalachian-dwelling characters.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“[Rash’s] starkly beautiful prose has mapped the heart and soul of southern Appalachia in a way few writers of his generation can match. . . A splendid new collection. . . shimmering, liquid poetry. . .”
Kansas City Star
Nothing Gold Can Stay is a gripping collection, raw and real, that solidifies Rash as a powerful and imaginative storyteller.”
Janet Maslin
“Ron Rash’s Nothing Gold Can Stay is [his] best book since Serena. Excitingly versatile. . . The stories are united by clean, tough specificity, courtly backwoods diction, and a capacity for sending shivers. (Alfred Hitchcock would have loved the story ‘A Sort of Miracle’).”
New York Magazine
A collection of short stories about Appalachia that are actually more like diamonds: cold, glittering, valuable.”
Washington Post
“With NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY, Ron Rash cements his reputation as one of the foremost chroniclers of that mythic uber-America known as the South. . . At his best, Rash evokes an understated poignancy that is genuinely affecting. . .
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Masterfully crafted. The best of Rash’s stories, written in a spare prose style, have an aching lyricism as they chronicle the hard times and hard fall of his characters. The best of the best will haunt the reader long after they’re done.”
Miami Herald
“The stories of Nothing Gold Can Stay are tough-minded, surprising, illuminating even when Rash leaves much unsaid (often the reader comprehends more than the characters can). But no matter when they are set or who they concern, these stories are kin to each other.”
Scott Simon
“Mesmerized by Ron Rash’s new NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY. Short stories that play on for a long time in your mind.”
Boston Globe
“A lovely, essential new collection of stories . . . lyrical and honest, grounded in place yet sweeping in scope. . . . .[Rash’s] prose is elegant, suggestive, and Hardyesque.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Striking . . . engaging . . . mesmerizing . . . After finishing this collection, one simply just wants to read more of Ron Rash.”
Charlotte Observer
“In his new collection of stories, Ron Rash stunningly renders his native Appalachia as an exotic planetoid governed by its own peculiar orbital laws . . . Rash is a fast-rising superstar in the North Carolina literary constellation that includes such luminaries as Michael Parker, Clyde Edgerton and Phillip Gerard.”
“. . . a wonderful collection.”
“Ron Rash’s fifth story collection, NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY, set in hardscrabble Appalachia, has a tone and temperament like that of his compatriot Eudora Welty, with a twist of Barry Hannah.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[Rash] bears comparison to the world’s truly great story writers—particularly Nathaniel Hawthorne for the gothic horrors that lie in the human heart and Anton Chekhov for his unflinching eye and his ability to capture a character in a single gesture.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Each of the stories in this collection comes to life under the power of Rash’s muscular way with words...The author creates a slice of life so authentic you can hear the rushing water and see the falling tears.”
Library Journal
His previous novels Serena and The Cove are set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, so it is no surprise that Rash (Appalachian studies, Western Carolina Univ.) sets this collection of short stories in the same loosely defined but culturally abundant geographic region of the eastern United States. He captures this richness in "A Servant of History," wherein a capricious young scholar attempts to record lost British ballads from the memory of an elderly Appalachian woman before she passes away. At the same time, the stories also articulate revelations of human vulnerability to the surrounding environmental conditions. In "A Sort of Miracle," an accountant dies of hypothermia after falling into a frozen lake. Rash's short stories thematically paint Appalachia not as a definitive place but as a series of many interconnected ways of relating to human and environmental frailty. VERDICT Another fine addition to the Rash bibliography, and a great entry point for the uninitiated reader. Those who enjoy the writing of Silas House and Sharyn McCrumb will be drawn into Rash's Appalachia.—Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

Product Details

Gale Cengage Learning
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Nothing Gold Can Stay

By Ron Rash

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Ron Rash
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-220271-0



The Trusty

They had been moving up the road a week without seeing another farmhouse, and the nearest well, at least the nearest the owner would let Sinkler use, was half a mile back. What had been a trusty sluff job was now as onerous as swinging a Kaiser blade or shoveling out ditches. As soon as he'd hauled the buckets back to the cage truck it was time to go again. He asked Vickery if someone could spell him and the bull guard smiled and said that Sinkler could always strap on a pair of leg irons and grab a handle. "Bolick just killed a rattlesnake in them weeds yonder," the bull guard said. "I bet he'd square a trade with you." When Sinkler asked if come morning he could walk ahead to search for another well, Vickery's lips tightened, but he nodded.

The next day, Sinkler took the metal buckets and walked until he found a farmhouse. It was no closer than the other, even a bit farther, but worth padding the hoof a few extra steps. The well he'd been using belonged to a hunchbacked widow. The woman who appeared in this doorway wore her hair in a similar tight bun and draped herself in the same sort of flour-cloth dress, but she looked to be in her mid-twenties, like Sinkler. Two weeks would pass before they got beyond this farmhouse, perhaps another two weeks before the next well. Plenty of time to quench a different kind of thirst. As he entered the yard, the woman looked past the barn to a field where a man and his draft horse were plowing. The woman gave a brisk whistle and the farmer paused and looked their way. Sinkler stopped beside the well but did not set the buckets down.

"What you want," the woman said, not so much a question as a demand.

"Water," Sinkler answered. "We've got a chain gang working on the road."

"I'd have reckoned you to bring water with you." "Not enough for ten men all day."

The woman looked out at the field again. Her husband watched but did not unloop the rein from around his neck. The woman stepped onto the six nailed together planks that looked more like a raft than a porch. Firewood was stacked on one side, and closer to the door an axe leaned between a shovel and a hoe. She let her eyes settle on the axe long enough to make sure he noticed it. Sinkler saw now that she was younger than he'd thought, maybe eighteen, at most twenty, more girl than woman.

"How come you not to have chains on you?"

"I'm a trusty," Sinkler said, smiling. "A prisoner, but one that can be trusted."

"And all you want is water?"

Sinkler thought of several possible answers.

"That's what they sent me for."

"I don't reckon there to be any money in it for us?" the girl asked.

"No, just gratitude from a bunch of thirsty men, and especially me for not having to haul it so far."

"I'll have to ask my man," she said. "Stay here in the yard."

For a moment he thought she might take the axe with her. As she walked into the field, Sinkler studied the house, which was no bigger than a fishing shack. The dwelling appeared to have been built in the previous century. The door opened with a latch, not a knob, and no glass filled the window frames. Sinkler stepped closer to the entrance and saw two ladder back chairs and a small table set on a puncheon floor. Sinkler wondered if these apple-knockers had heard they were supposed to be getting a new deal.

"You can use the well," the girl said when she returned, "but he said you need to forget one of them pails here next time you come asking for water."

Worth it, he figured, even if Vickery took the money out of Sinkler's own pocket, especially with no sign up ahead of another farmhouse. It would be a half-dollar at most, easily made up with one slick deal in a poker game. He nodded and went to the well, sent the rusty bucket down into the dark. The girl went up on the porch but didn't go inside.

"What you in prison for?"

"Thinking a bank manager wouldn't notice his teller slipping a few bills in his pocket."



"I ain't never been past Asheville," the girl said. "How long you in for?"

"Five years. I've done sixteen months."

Sinkler raised the bucket, water leaking from the bottom as he transferred its contents. The girl stayed on the porch, making sure that all he took was water.

"You lived here long?"

"Me and Chet been here a year," the girl said. "I grew up across the ridge yonder."

"You two live alone, do you?"

"We do," the girl said, "but there's a rifle just inside the door and I know how to bead it."

"I'm sure you do," Sinkler said. "You mind telling me your name, just so I'll know what to call you?"

"Lucy Sorrels."

He waited to see if she'd ask his.

"Mine's Sinkler," he said when she didn't.

He filled the second bucket but made no move to leave, instead looking around at the trees and mountains as if just noticing them. Then he smiled and gave a slight nod. "Must get lonely being out so far from everything,"

Sinkler said. "At least, I would think so."

"And I'd think them men to be getting thirsty," Lucy Sorrels said.

"Probably," he agreed, surprised at her smarts in turning his words back on him. "But I'll return soon to brighten your day."

"When you planning to leave one of them pails?" she asked.

"Last trip before quitting time."

She nodded and went into the shack.

"The rope broke," he told Vickery as the prisoners piled into the truck at quitting time.

The guard looked not so much skeptical as aggrieved that Sinkler thought him fool enough to believe it. Vickery answered that if Sinkler thought he'd lightened his load he was mistaken. It'd be easy enough to find another bucket, maybe one that could hold an extra gallon. Sinkler shrugged and lifted himself into the cage truck, found a place on the metal bench among the sweating convicts. He'd won over the other guards with cigarettes and small loans, that and his mush talk, but not Vickery, who'd argued that making Sinkler a trusty would only give him a head start when he tried to escape.

The bull guard was right about that. Sinkler had more than fifty dollars in poker winnings now, plenty enough cash to get him across the Mississippi and finally shed himself of the whole damn region. He'd grown up in Montgomery, but when the law got too interested in his comings and goings he'd gone north to Knoxville and then west to Memphis before recrossing Tennessee on his way to Raleigh. Sinkler's talents had led him to establishments where his sleight of hand needed no deck of cards. With a decent suit, clean fingernails, and buffed shoes, he'd walk into a business and be greeted as a solid citizen. Tell a story about being in town because of an ailing mother and you were the cat's pajamas. They'd take the Help Wanted sign out of the window and pretty much replace it with Help Yourself. Sinkler remembered the afternoon in Memphis when he had stood by the river after grifting a clothing store of forty dollars in two months. Keep heading west or turn back east— that was the choice. He'd flipped a silver dollar to decide, a rare moment when he'd trusted his life purely to luck.

This time he'd cross the river, start in Kansas City or St. Louis. He'd work the stores and cafés and newsstands and anywhere else with a till or a cash register. Except for a bank. Crooked as bankers were, Sinkler should have realized how quickly they'd recognize him as one of their own. No, he'd not make that mistake again.

That night, when the stockade lights were snuffed, he lay in his bunk and thought about Lucy Sorrels. A year and a half had passed since he'd been with a woman. After that long, almost any female would make the sap rise. There was nothing about her face to hold a man's attention, but curves tightened the right parts of her dress.

Nice legs too. Each trip to the well that day, he had tried to make small talk. She had given him the icy mitts, but he had weeks yet to warm her up. It was only on the last haul that the husband had come in from his field. He'd barely responded to Sinkler's "how do you do's" and "much obliged's." He looked to be around forty and Sinkler suspected that part of his terseness was due to a younger man being around his wife. After a few moments, the farmer had nodded at the pail in Sinkler's left hand. "You'll be leaving that, right?" When Sinkler said yes, the husband told Lucy to switch it with the leaky well bucket, then walked into the barn.

Two days passed before Lucy asked if he'd ever thought of trying to escape.

"Of course," Sinkler answered. "Have you?"

She looked at him in a way that he could not read.

"How come you ain't done it, then? They let you roam near anywhere you want, and you ain't got shackles."

"Maybe I enjoy the free room and board," Sinkler answered. He turned a thumb toward his stripes. "Nice duds too. They even let you change them out every Sunday." "I don't think I could stand it," Lucy said. "Being locked up so long and knowing I still had nigh on four years." He checked her lips for the slightest upward curve of a smile, but it wasn't there.

"Yeah," Sinkler said, taking a step closer. "You don't seem the sort to stand being locked up. I'd think a young gal pretty as you would want to see more of the world." "How come you ain't done it?" she asked again, and brushed some loose wisps of hair behind her ear.

"Maybe the same reason as you," Sinkler said. "It's not like you can get whisked away from here. I haven't seen more than a couple of cars and trucks on this road, and those driving them know there's prisoners about. They wouldn't be fool enough to pick up a stranger. Haven't seen a lot of train tracks either."

"Anybody ever try?" Lucy asked.

"Yeah, two weeks ago. Fellow ran that morning and the bloodhounds had him grabbing sky by dark. All he got for his trouble was a bunch of tick bites and briar scratches. That and another year added to his sentence."

For the first time since she'd gone to fetch her husband, Lucy stepped off the porch and put some distance between her and the door. The rifle and axe too, which meant that she was starting to trust him at least a little. She stood in the yard and looked up at an eave, where black insects hovered around clots of dried mud.

"Them dirt daubers is a nuisance," Lucy said. "I knock their nests down and they build them back the next day." "I'd guess them to be about the only thing that wants to stay around here, don't you think?"

"You've got a saucy way of talking," she said.

"You don't seem to mind it too much," Sinkler answered, and nodded toward the field. "An older fellow like that usually keeps a close eye on a pretty young wife, but he must be the trusting sort, or is it he just figures he's got you corralled in?"

He lifted the full buckets and stepped close enough to the barn not to be seen from the field. "You don't have to stand so far from me, Lucy Sorrels. I don't bite."

She didn't move toward him but she didn't go back to the porch, either.

"If you was to escape, where would you go?"

"Might depend on who was going with me," Sinkler answered. "What kind of place would you like to visit?" "Like you'd just up and take me along. I'd likely that about as much as them daubers flying me out of here."

"No, I'd need to get to know my traveling partner better," Sinkler said. "Make sure she really cared about me. That way she wouldn't take a notion to turn me in."

"You mean for the reward money?"

Sinkler laughed.

"You've got to be a high cloud to have a reward put on you, darling. They'd not even bother to put my mug in a post office, which is fine by me. Buy my train ticket and I'd be across the Mississippi in two days. Matter of fact, I've got money enough saved to buy two tickets."

"Enough for two tickets?" she asked.

"I do indeed."

Lucy looked at her bare feet, placed one atop the other as a shy child might. She set both feet back on the ground and looked up.

"Why come you to think a person would turn you in if there ain't no reward?"

"Bad conscience— which is why I've got to be sure my companion doesn't have one." Sinkler smiled. "Like I said, you don't have to stand so far away. We could even step into the barn for a few minutes."

Lucy looked toward the field and let her gaze linger long enough that he thought she just might do it.

"I have chores to get done," she said and went into the shack.

Sinkler headed back down the road, thinking things out. By the time he set the sloshing buckets beside the prison truck, he'd figured a way to get Lucy Sorrels's dress raised with more than just sweet talk. He'd tell her there was an extra set of truck keys in a guard's front desk he could steal. Once the guards were distracted, he'd jump in the truck, pick her up, head straight to Asheville, and catch the first train out. It was a damn good story, one - Sinkler himself might have believed if he didn't know that all the extra truck keys were locked inside a thousand pound Mosler safe.

Excerpted from Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash. Copyright © 2013 by Ron Rash. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller Serena and Above the Waterfall, in addition to four prizewinning novels, including The Cove, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; four collections of poems; and six collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O. Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Nothing Gold Can Stay 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“I’d fish until it was neither day nor night, but balanced between. There never seemed to be a breeze, pond and shore equally smoothed. Just stillness, as though the world had taken a soft breath, and was holding it in, and even time had leveled out, moving neither forward nor back. Then the frogs and crickets waiting for full dark announced themselves, or a breeze came up and I again heard the slosh of water against land” Nothing Gold Can Stay is an omnibus of fourteen short stories by American author, Ron Rash. Ranging from the time of the Civil War through to the present day, the stories occur in a feast of Appalachian settings: Tennessee mountains, small town, a river between Georgia and South Carolina, a casino, a farm near the Tennessee border, a college campus, a slope in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a derelict old house, a pond and more. Rash is a consummate storyteller who gives his reader a marvellous cast of characters: a prison trusty on a road gang, a desperate pair of drug addicts, a diver called in to recover a body, a debt-weary couple hoping for good luck, a pair of black fugitives, an Englishman with an interest in ballads, a father worried for his daughter serving in the Middle East, a husband fed up with his Florida in-laws, a mountain boy with a chance at a better life, a sixteen-year-old girl wishing for a more exciting life, a nineteenth century pastor who takes a drastic step to help a young couple, a grocery store manager prompted to recall an encounter in his teens, a night-time radio DJ and a retired veterinarian. The stories are filled with twists, amusing plays on language and accent, black humour, irony and, of course, beautiful prose. Rash will cause the reader to think about deception, theft, loyalty, feuds, gambling, hopelessness, revenge, physical beauty and ageing. Rash’s love of the Appalachian setting is apparent in every paragraph: “He stood there in the late-afternoon light, absorbing the valley’s expansiveness after days in the mountains. The land rippled out and appeared to reach all the way to where the sun and earth merged”. Rash’s stories are pure gold. 4.5 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I sent this to a friend in the Sonoma County Jail. He couldn't put it down and now it is making the rounds with the other inmates. They are all discussing it in detail - the characters, the challenges, the outcomes. The stories are disturbing but have had a profound effect on them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ignore the one star reviews, this collection of short stories is worthy of more. Ron Rash once again displays his keen understanding of the Appalachian setting and the people that live there. Quotes like, "Stick with me and you'll be riding the cushions," exemplify Rash's keen understanding of the local dialect. With stories ranging from the Civil War to the 21st century, with characters from convicts to pastors, and plot twists abound, anyone who loves to read should pick up this book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Provocative stories make you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading 4 of the short stories, I gave up. The stories were disjointed and the characters were not developed enough. Not worth my time.