Time for my next book review! It’s been awhile since I’ve done a review, but I have been reading…

I finished Us by David Nicholls earlier this month, and less than two weeks later, I finished Serena by Ron Rash. This cold weather is at least good for getting some reading done, right? I’ve really enjoyed having good books to dive into while the temperatures continue to plummet outside and have gotten to chip away at my ever-growing “to read” list.


My sister recommended Serena awhile ago, and I regret not getting to it sooner. It was such a solid, refreshing book… a real “salt of the earth” book, if you will. It takes place in the early 1900s in unsettled North Carolina mountainland. The Pemberton Lumber Company is busy lumbering large expanses of land, and over the course of just over two years, they clear out most of  the region.

There is a lot of money to be made but just as many lives to be lost as the story unfolds. The Pembertons’ marriage – a relationship that is like both fire and ice at times – is tinged with Mr. Pemberton’s transgressions prior to the wedding: an illegitimate child and a single mother left to struggle to survive on the outskirts of the very town the Pemberton Lumber Company inhabits.

Needless to say, the characters are rich (no, not only speaking in terms of money!) and the setting is too. Rash’s descriptions and detail make you feel like you are back in time, but in the same moment, you are very relieved that you aren’t. The hardships they face and lifestyles are hard to imagine, yet I’m sure they are very true to that time period.

The entire book was littered with unexpected occurrences, but Rash certainly saved the biggest surprise for last. Even his coda, which hints at the true events that inspired the novel, leaves you totally engrossed and yet the tiniest bit on edge long after you’ve turned the last page.

Rating: 4/5 stars
371 pages
Recommended for: I wouldn’t recommend this to younger audiences, mostly because of the nature of the story. Death is not unusual, and it’s rarely from natural causes. I would say that readers who enjoy a bit of history mixed in with rich fiction will definitely find this a satisfying read. It’s really cool to feel like you get to experience another time period simply by getting lost in the pages of a book! Even if you don’t think it sounds like your cup of tea, I’d try to persuade you to at least give it a try…you might be surprised!

PS- Rumor is that a movie version is being made. Of course, I had to look up the trailer…A little less enthused after watching it, as it seems to stray quite a bit from the storyline in the book, but I’ll probably still see it 🙂

Up next: Either Amy Poehler’s new book, a Jojo Moyes book or Anna Karenina. Yep, about as different as 3 books could be! Guess we’ll just have to see what kind of mood I’m in when the reading bug inevitably strikes again…I heard we’re getting snow tonight so it won’t be long until I’m back in a book again!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Serena

  1. Great review! I’m impressed you did it without any spoilers! 🙂 I’m glad you liked it as much as I did. I’m still working on “us” and it is awesome so far!

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