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Saints at the River: A Novel
     

Saints at the River: A Novel

4.3 23
by Ron Rash
 

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A major new Southern voice emerges in this novel about a town divided by the aftermath of a tragic accident--and the woman caught in the middle

When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight.

Overview

A major new Southern voice emerges in this novel about a town divided by the aftermath of a tragic accident--and the woman caught in the middle

When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dangerous precedent. Torn between the two sides is Maggie Glenn, a twenty-eight-year-old newspaper photographer who grew up in the town and has been sent to document the incident. Since leaving home almost ten years ago, Maggie has done her best to avoid her father, but now, as the town's conflict opens old wounds, she finds herself revisiting the past she's fought so hard to leave behind. Meanwhile, the reporter who's accompanied her to cover the story turns out to have a painful past of his own, and one that might stand in the way of their romance.
Drawing on the same lyrical prose and strong sense of place that distinguished his award-winning first novel, One Foot in Eden, Ron Rash has written a book about the deepest human themes: the love of the land, the hold of the dead on the living, and the need to dive beneath the surface to arrive at a deeper truth. Saints at the River confirms the arrival of one of today's most gifted storytellers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When the 12-year-old daughter of a wealthy banker drowns in South Carolina's Tamassee River, her death sets off an emotionally charged battle between the grieving parents, who want to put up a dam to recover her body, and the local environmentalists, who will risk everything to defend the pristine state of their river. Rash pens his novel in clear, unadorned prose appropriate to its ripped-from-the-headlines premise; only the lyrical opening passage, which recounts the girl's death, reflects his skill as a poet (Among the Believers; Raising the Dead). But the book is rich with nuance, mostly because Rash selects Maggie Glenn as his first-person narrator. A Tamassee native who now works as a news photographer in the state capital, Columbia, Maggie has deep ties to the town, but she's detached from the main fray. As a result, her news angles and her romantic attachments keep shifting. Maggie's rage against her father isn't sufficiently explored to carry the weight it bears in the plot, but Rash compensates for this weakness by creating detailed, highly particular characters. A professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and author of a previous Southern novel, One Foot in Eden, Rash clearly knows the people and places he writes about, and that authenticity pays off in a conclusion that packs an unexpected and powerful punch. Agent, Marly Rusoff. (Aug. 6) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Like Rash's debut, One Foot in Eden, his second novel takes place in the Appalachian backwoods. A Minnesotan girl vacationing in South Carolina with her parents accidentally drowns in the Tamassee River, and her parents want to recover her body, which is trapped in an underwater gorge. This sparks a confrontation between environmentalists, who are strongly opposed to a rescue mission that would spoil the natural surroundings, and the family, which lobbies for public support through the media. Against this backdrop, former Tamassee resident Maggie Glenn, a staff photographer for a state newspaper, is sent to cover the story with high-profile reporter Allen Hemphill, who lost his daughter and wife in an automobile accident. The two become romantically involved, and when a town resident drowns during the rescue mission, Maggie must face up to feelings about past events that have cut her off from others-namely, her father, who, like Maggie herself, "carries what he feels for people deep inside." From the first page to the last, the author's down-to-earth characters and rich descriptions of the backwoods carry readers through this emotionally charged story. Recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.]-David A. Berone, Univ. of New Hampshire Lib., Durham Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gripping environmental drama pits the rescue of a drowned child against the integrity of a river. Narrator Maggie Glenn works for a newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. The 28-year-old photographer was born and raised in Tamassee, in the mountains to the west, and she's assigned, along with star reporter Allen Hemphill, to cover a big story in her hometown. Three weeks earlier, 12-year-old Ruth Kowalsky had been sucked into a whirlpool in the Tamassee River; county divers have failed to dislodge her body from the rock where it lies trapped. Ruth's father Herb, a powerful banker from Minnesota, wants to make the divers' job easier by erecting a portable dam to divert the water flow. One problem: Erection means drilling holes into the bedrock, and federal law protects the river from any violation of its natural state. Storywriter and second-novelist Rash (One Foot in Eden, not reviewed) sets up a finely balanced confrontation between Luke Miller, fearless and incorruptible champion of the river (though no saint), and Ruth's grieving parents, who want to give her a proper burial. Uncomfortably in the middle is the district ranger. Back in Tamassee, Maggie has more on her mind than her job. She has been estranged from her father ever since her brother Ben and she were badly burned in a childhood accident for which the old man was responsible. Now he's dying of cancer. Can Maggie make peace with him, as her more forgiving brother did years ago? On the job, she takes a haunting photograph of the despondent Herb Kowalsky. Along with Hemphill's reporting, it helps tip the balance in favor of the temporary dam. Luke, her ex-lover and mentor, is furious, and Maggie herself, secretly on hisside, regrets taking it. But the suspense isn't over. The river is rising. Will the dam hold long enough for the divers to retrieve the girl?Spare, resonant, unputdownable. Agent: Marly Rusoff

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429900836
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
136,777
File size:
1 MB

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Read an Excerpt


From Saints at the River:
Listening to Ben, you would have thought he'd gone through childhood with nothing worse happening to him than a stubbed toe. Someone who didn't know him well would say he was merely in denial, but I did know Ben well, and I knew the life he'd made for himself as a man. The early history of his life was like history written in chalk on a blackboard-something he could smudge and then erase through sheer good-heartedness.
But I wasn't like my brother. I couldn't let things go. I didn't even want to. Forgetting, like forgiving, only blurred things. Even Ben, for all his nostalgia, had put the whole width of the United States between him and South Carolina.

Meet the Author

Winner of an NEA poetry fellowship, Ron Rash is the author of the prize-winning novels One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River and The World Made Straight, as well as several collections of poetry and short stories. He is the recipient of an O. Henry Prize and the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. For Saints at the River he received the 2004 Weatherford Award for Best Novel and the 2005 SEBA Best Book Award for Fiction. Rash holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and lives in Clemson, South Carolina.

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Saints at the River 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had the fortunate experience to meet Mr. Rash in June of 2006. (He 'taught' a portion of a summer class that I took.) He provided many informative tips for aspiring writers, and he used this particular novel as an example of how to take out punctuation in order to symbolize the swiftness of a river. This book was beautifully written. I hate to use the tired phrase, 'I could hardly put it down,' so instead, I'll just say, 'It made me want to read it until I had reached the final page.' :) The characters are very real and well-developed. He said that the premise for the story was inspired by actual events, which is always a plus...for me anyway.
JacksonvilleReader More than 1 year ago
The opening style (with no punctuation) made me a little apprehensive when I first began reading Saints at the River, but it soon made sense. There were several things I liked about this book. First, Rash developed the individual stories and characters just to the stages he needed to tell the larger story. He didn't go off on tangents. Second, he didn't degrade or talk down to the area or characters as so many authors do when writing about a specific part of the country, especially the South. I definitely felt the struggle between the various characters (daughter/father, parents/environmentalists, etc.). This is the first book I've read by Rash and look forward to reading others by him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book really hard to put down because it draws you into it. Rash does a wonderful job portraying what so many people deal with when it comes to the mountains of Appalachia. I felt very connected and had mixed feelings just as the chrarcter Maggie does. I would recommend this book to everyone. The tale is heartgripping but also healing. I loved it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The conflict in this modern-day tale pits grieving parents who want to recover the body of their drowned daughter against those opposed to damming the wild river that holds it captive. Characters quickly choose sides for the fight outsiders versus locals, tree huggers versus tree cutters, developers versus environmentalists, and even parents versus their grown children. The resolution might surprise you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The writing gave such true to life memories of a life since past. Having the loss of a young child from drowning, just brought out the more I wanted them to have their child returned to them. I was compelled to read the book until it was finished. Superb Author
Guest More than 1 year ago
Saints at the River honestly portrays life as it is in a small southern town. Rush's characters depict the way southerners really are, not ignorant as they have been stereotyped since the civil war, but intelligent, passionate, with an intense longing to stick together and take care of their own. Their love of the land and of a simpler time, which they still live in, is very evident as well. A good read, I could not put it down until I was finished.
Anonymous 5 days ago
Another wonderful story by Ron Rash. Sad but beautiful.
brf1948 12 days ago
Ron Rash gives us another special novel, set in more modern times (2002) in Tamassee, South Carolina. It is the classic mix of tragedy, tree huggers, the press and small town opinionitis. The river is the star of this tale. The Tamassee River has National Wild and Scenic River status. According to Wickipedia, "National Wild and Scenic designation essentially vetoes the licensing of new hydropower projects on or directly affecting the river. It also provides very strong protection against bank and channel alterations that adversely affect river values, protects riverfront public lands from oil, gas and mineral development, and creates a federal reserved water right to protect flow-dependent values." Because her flow is uninterrupted by man made obstacles and there is a lot of fast, moving water, the river Tamassee has formed several hydraulics, places where the rocks, rushing water and time have formed pockets of cyclonic power. In the old days, you could break the suction of a hydraulic by tossing in a stick of dynamite. That is not an option now, with the status of the river. Ruth Kowalsky, 12 years old, drowns in the river in front of her family, and her body is washed down stream to the Wolf Cliff Falls and caught up behind a strong hydraulic below the falls. Her parents, Ellen who dove the pool several times trying to rescue her daughter, and Herb (a non-swimmer), just want their daughter's body, so they can take her home. The Search and Rescue folks can't get safely through the hydraulic to retrieve the body without endangering their own lives. For weeks the battle goes on between tree huggers who oppose any channel alterations and are represented by Luke Miller and his followers who know the river and her powers intimately, and the folks who are backing the family and their desire to retrieve there daughters' remains. Add in an out of state manufacturer of portable dams who thinks he can tame the river. As time passes, many politicians and notables get involved on both sides, including several state politicians. The press is represented early on by Allen Hemphill, a former Washington Post foreign correspondent with heavy personal baggage, and Maggie Glenn, a Tamassee local, as photographer. Both work for for The Messenger in Columbia, SC. And of course national press and some TV come on board by week five. A local church is also heavily represented, more neutral in flavor. This is a heart wringing novel. The arguments for both sides are logical. You cannot help but place yourself in the hearts of the parents, the Search and Rescue workers, and even see the sense of the ecologists. It is a book you will find hard to put down. I will want to read this again in a few months to find more subtle flavors.
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Bibbo More than 1 year ago
I recently discovered this writer after being intrigued by reviews for most recent novel, "The Cove" Efforts to recover body of drowned 12 year old girl come in conflict with environmentalists who believe efforts will harm river as well as violate federal regulations. Local paper sends reporter/photographer back to her home to cover story. Great descriptions of Appalachian setting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The setting is true. [Am familiar with the area.] A good example of how a community can be caught-up in a situation, this one sad, which yields unintended results. Lead by outsiders, seeking to make a fortune by changing a beautiful rapid river, the town people are influnced by the sad drowning of a little girl. The news media, love of family and local flavor lends itself to a good story. A story of nature prevailing, or God if you believe. A good book. Keeps you interested. Fast read.
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Story was very touching. Love anything about appilachia