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Posted July 4, 2013
Karen Godwell grows up ashamed of her Appalachian heritage. Karen does not know who her father is and her mother flits from one boyfriend to another, some of whom are abusive and from whom Karen tries to protect her brother and sister. After Karen's mother abandons her children, Karen and her brother and sister are raised by their grandparents, frugal people who are hard-working and expect the same from their grandchildren. Karen leaves her past behind when she goes to college and works hard at losing her accent and reinventing herself. Years later, she holds a prestigious job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and lives a luxurious lifestyle. After her husband dies from cancer, Karen learns her brother has placed her grandmother in a nursing home and taken all her money and property. She packs up and, with her daughter, moves back to the mountains, intent on making things right. But her brother harbors a dark secret about Karen, one she has tried to forget, and now Karen must decide whether to do the right thing concerning her grandmother or risk losing everything if the secret is told.
Rose Senehi is known and appreciated for incorporating environmental issues into her stories which are rich with historical and geographical detail. Karen is a woman hardened by her earlier life with a chip on her shoulder and anger issues. However, one empathizes with her feelings about her past and her conflict over protecting a brother whom she loves yet knows is mentally unbalanced and evil at heart. The characters surrounding Karen are well-developed and it is interesting that several are based on actual persons. The cultural and historical aspects of the Western North Carolina Appalachian region are intriguing and a welcome bonus to this compelling story.
Posted August 8, 2012
Render Unto The Valley was a captivating book. The author creates the characters so beautifully that you can really relate to them. From page one I felt for Karen, who had recently lost her husband, and her young daughter, Hali. Not only had they just lost the "man of the house" now they must leave New York to return to Karen's hometown. Karen returns to the mountain she tried so hard to escape to save her grandmother's land and home from her disturbing brother. The reader can't help but hate Travis, and be very scared that someone like this might exist. I also enjoy the way the author allows us to see many sides of the "story" without making it confusing. Each character flows so effortlessly, and well described, into the next that you never get the "tennis match" feeling of back and forth that you frequently get with many point of views.
The family dynamic is very real in this book. The connections and emotions are well written. You'll definitely want to keep reading to know why Karen's grandmother went down hill so fast, to find out just how evil Travis is, and if Karen will return to New York or stay where her husband had wanted them to be. With plenty of thriller type action and very detailed scenery with a strong theme of protecting the environment,history, and culture this is a great story that will please many audiences. This is the third book in Rose Senehi's "stand-alone" Blue Ridge series. I highly suggest reading all of them. Soon, you'll find yourself wanting to leave the city life to follow the characters in Blue Ridge.
I was not paid for this review. The opinions expressed here are my own and were in no way swayed. I was given a copy of the book for an honest review. Thank you for reading! -Melissa
Posted January 13, 2012
I've read all of Ms Senehi's books with genuine appreciation. Up until now I liked Pelican Watch best, but Render Unto the Valley moves her writing up a couple notches. Character development was very satisfying. I felt I knew them if I met them on the street. The story moves at a comfortable pace with just the right amount of conflict and suspense. The over all theme leads one to better understand our beautiful geographical resouces and the importance of protecting them. Overall I rate the book 5 star with the hope the she is already writing a sequel with the main characters included. I would have appreciated more pages. The read went much too fast.
Pawleys Island, SC
Posted January 3, 2012
Rose Senehi's newest novel, Render Unto the Valley, evokes many emotions in the reader. We empathize with Karen Godwell, the story's main character, as she fights both inner and outer battles. Inner: her recovery from her husband's death from cancer, the knowledge that her efforts to cut ties with her mountain roots has failed, and memories of the terrible thing she did in the past. Outer: her move back to the family farm in NC with her daughter, Hali, and the ensuing battle with her psychotic brother over the family land.
We feel her love for her daughter, the highs and lows of her relationship with environmentalist,Tom Gibbons, her sorrow over the situation with her grandmother, her feelings of both love and fear she has for her brother, Travis, but most of all, the inescapable pride she has in her heritage.
I¿m a NC mountain girl, myself, and I understand the power of mountain heritage. It¿s a mystery that many people probably don't understand, but native western North Carolinians "get it."
As a lover of books (both author and reader) I spend a lot of time with them and specifically love stories set in NC. I've read all of Ms. Senehi's novels and Render Unto the Valley is my favorite so far. She has successfully captured the power of the Blue Ridge Mountains within the pages of this book and I highly recommend it.
Leanna Sain, NC author