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One Foot in Eden

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Overview

Will Alexander is the sheriff in a small town in southern Appalachia, and he knows that the local thug Holland Winchester has been murdered. The only thing is the sheriff can find neither the body nor someone to attest to the killing. Simply, almost elementally told through the voices of the sheriff, a local farmer, his beautiful wife, their son, and the sheriff's deputy, One Foot in Eden signals the bellwether arrival of one the most mature and distinctive voices in southern ...

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Overview

Will Alexander is the sheriff in a small town in southern Appalachia, and he knows that the local thug Holland Winchester has been murdered. The only thing is the sheriff can find neither the body nor someone to attest to the killing. Simply, almost elementally told through the voices of the sheriff, a local farmer, his beautiful wife, their son, and the sheriff's deputy, One Foot in Eden signals the bellwether arrival of one the most mature and distinctive voices in southern literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A classic tale of passion and tragedy. Each voice rings as true as the sound of an ax in the cold early morning air." —Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls

"Equal parts vintage crime novel and Southern Gothic, full of aching ambivalence and hard compromises, and rounded off by bad faith and bad choices, One Foot in Eden is a veritable garden of earthly disquiet." —Los Angeles Times

"Ruggedly beautiful...Reading Rash's tale is like listening to a plaintive mountain ballad about a time and place long vanished: the lyrics are sweet and mournful, wistful and dark. And, oh, does One Foot in Eden linger!" —The Charlotte Observer

"Rash's characters have a heroic quality as they struggle to fill the empty spaces in their hearts. They also have a poetic intensity." —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"One Foot In Eden is a story of wild, almost primitive force and yet it is neatly and ingeniously put together. Ron Rash knows to the core the ways of those who yearn for what is just beyond their grasp. Here is a lasting experience."

-Fred Chappell, Poet Laureate of North Carolina

"Ron Rash writes like a prince!"

-Pat Conroy

"One Foot in Eden is a forceful but never forced narrative. Rash moves his tragedy along with great authority, revealing motives that build to the complexity of each character as well as our fascination with them and the outcome of their lives. It is a finely polished novel."

-The Columbia State

"If you are a fan of writers such as Robert Morgan, Lee Smith and Fred Chappell, you'll be pleased to know they liked this novel and wrote glowing jacket notes. And no wonder: One Foot In Eden could have been written by any of these authors....Save yourself a nice stretch of time for this book. Once you start it, you will find it extremely hard to put down."

-The Anderson Independent

"In this fine, passionate work, Rash combines a murder mystery with the occasion of the flooding of a South Carolina Appalachian valley by Carolina power. The story of One Foot In Eden is simple, elemental. The conclusion has the force and inevitability of real tragedy...a tragedy that occurs in the ancient, brooding mountains of the Southern Appalachians."

-Don Noble, Alabama Public Radio

Publishers Weekly
Rash's moody, potent slice of Southern gothic fiction centers on a murder and its devastating effect on a small Appalachian town in the 1950s. When Holland Winchester, local troublemaker in tiny Seneca, S.C., vanishes without a trace, it's up to town sheriff and WWII veteran Will Alexander to search for answers. Holland's mother claims to have heard a gunshot, and she insists that neighbor Billy Holcombe killed her son. Events unfurl slowly and methodically, and it's soon revealed that Billy's pregnant wife, Amy, had been having an affair with Holland. Shifting from Sheriff Alexander's narration, the story continues in Amy's voice as she recounts her frustration with Billy's sterility and her increasingly desperate need to bear a child. An impulsive visit to a spell-weaving widow for advice proves to be Amy's downfall when she's told that if her husband can't give her a child, she should "lay down with a man who can." The ensuing drama of infidelity, jealousy and betrayal is told by a chorus of characters with distinctive Appalachian voices: chief among them are Amy, Billy and Amy's young son, Isaac, whose discovery of the identity of his real father is both heartbreaking and liberating. As the valley is flooded to make room for a power company's land takeover, further tragedies unfold. Poet and short story writer Rash writes lyrically while maintaining the suspense of the central mystery. As each character reveals his or her secrets, the tale builds into a quiet storm-and a terrific first novel. (Feb. 2) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Know primarily for his poetry, Rash won the 2002 Novello Festival Press Literary Award for the manuscript of this compelling first novel (it was first published in a limited edition by the Novello Festival Press). The plot combines a love triangle and a murder mystery. From the beginning, readers know who done it and, soon enough, why; the mystery is in the disappearance of Holland Winchester's body. Rash uses this plot device successfully by dividing the novel into five sections, narrated by the sheriff, the wife, the husband, the son, and the deputy. Each perspective reveals more about the characters and their motivations and actions while permitting Rash to explore significant themes of love, infidelity, revenge, justice, and fate. Besides delving into the minds of the murder victim, Holland Winchester, and married couple Billy and Amy Holcombe, the conversations divulge the thoughts and superstitions of various family members, neighbors, and the local witch to create the Appalachian South immediately after World War II. Rash pulls the reader into this world with colloquial dialect and lyrical descriptions of a way of life that has disappeared. Recommended for public libraries, especially libraries with Southern literature collections.-Cheryl L. Conway, Univ. of Arkansas Lib., Fayetteville Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312423056
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/3/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 137,650
  • Product dimensions: 5.49 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Rash currently lives in Clemson, South Carolina. He is the author of several collections of short fiction and poetry, and has had his work featured in The Yale Review, The Oxford American, and elsewhere. This is his first novel. Henry Holt will publish his second in summer 2004.

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide Questions

1. The challenge for a modern novelist who has characters speaking in dialect is how to give a flavor

for regional speech without having the dialogue be intrusive or, worse, having it reduce characters

to stereotypes or caricatures. Discuss the effectiveness of the dialect in the novel, focusing not only

on vocabulary but also syntax. Also look at the relationship between the social standing of

characters and their manner of speaking.

2. Discuss the interplay between rationality and irrationality. Several characters certainly would be

associated with one or the other, but the traits often mingle (Billy killing Holland but then carefully

reasoning out the hiding of the body.) A primitive urge—the desire to have a child—and

Glendower's dark magic combine to set the tragedy in motion after a doctor scientifically confirms

the sterility. Alexander intuits that something isn't right but also uses logic to unravel the murder.

Isaac seems to have both elements coursing through him, etc.

3. What does it mean to say that this is very much an Old Testament story? Discuss the various links:

names, the title and epigraph, the flood, the harsh retribution and consequences for sin,

dispossession, etc. How do the language and setting combine to create an Old Testament tone?

4. Does One Foot In Eden feel like a historical novel to you? If so, how is this sense of history

evoked? If not, what particulars make it seem timeless or modern? Additionally, how is history of

the place tied into the personal histories of the characters?

5. The setting of the novel seems to be of special importance to this story. Geography and psychology

are inextricably bound. Discuss how the two mirror and reinforce each other and how the novel's

characters attempt to control the landscape even as they are controlled by it.

6. Being that this terrain is located in the American South, particularly in rural Appalachia, in what

ways do the novel or its characters feel “Southern”? Are these people defined by their home, its

history and heritage, or are they something more than the place in which they live?

7. Tragedies – from the Bible to ancient Greek theatre to today – often involve characters who

admirable or sympathetic but who are also capable of horrible deeds. Would you also consider this

to be the case in One Foot In Eden, and if so, which characters would you consider tragic?

8. Why do you think Ron Rash chose to structure the novel as he did, both with the testimonial

chapters and the surprising jump forward in time with the Deputy’s chapter?

9. Is Rash trying to impart something beyond the story itself by choosing to tell it in this fashion?

 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Accurate and Wonderful

    I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago as summer reading for college, but I find myself picking it up over and over.

    Being from the area from which the story is set, I only managed to find two minor errors in context. The descriptions of the setting are flawless. My father, who remembers before the Jocassee River Valley was flooded, enjoyed it as well. I've given copies to most of my relatives (ages ranging from 15 to 84, male and female) and they've all loved it.

    If you're not familiar with the setting, then it's still a great rustic mystery, with a touch of Andy Griffith in the mix.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    excellent

    You are taken back to a different time and place and grow to respect the southern mountains and the people who live in the mountain. The tragic story is told in vivid detail and the characters are long remembered.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2009

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    Posted March 13, 2010

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    Posted December 20, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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