The Monday Book – The Risen

Today’s review is by Paul Garrett

Bill and Eugene are brothers living with their widowed mother in Sylva, NC. One is destined to become a renown neurosurgeon. The other is destined to ruin his life with drink. But in 1969 that is all in the future, as the two boys, out for their usual Sunday afternoon fishing trip on the Tuckaseegee river, run across Ligeia, a party girl who is visiting from Daytona Beach. It is not a pleasure trip. She has been banished to the Appalachians by her parents who can’t cope with her wild ways. Ligeia ensnares the two boys; one a junior in high school and the other a college freshman, in a web of deceit and lawbreaking.

She suddenly disappears, only to just as suddenly reappear decades later to drive a wedge between the two men as they are made to face their past, the legacy of their overbearing Grandfather, and the tragic effect she has had on their lives.

In The Risen (Harper Collins, 2016) Ron Rash has written a book that moves like a kayak on the Class V rapids of a mountain river. He is known for writing close to the land and this book is no different, set deep in the Appalachians only a stone’s throw from the campus of Western Carolina University where he currently teaches.

Ligeia is named after a character in an Edgar Allen Poe story about a woman with strange powers who comes back from the dead. The Ligeia in this novel seems to have an allure which Eugene is powerless to resist. Her return has catastrophic consequences for both Eugene and his brother.

With stories like Speckled Trout, Above the Waterfall, Saints at the River, and in my opinion, his best effort, One Foot in Eden, which is about the flooding of the idyllic Jocassee Valley by Duke Power Company (now Duke Energy) in 1972, bodies of water, especially rivers are a constant theme in Rash’s works. Water can symbolize many things in literature. In The Risen, the river seems to symbolize the fact that life is constantly moving in one direction only and even though one may recognize the mistakes of the past, it is impossible to go back and correct them no matter how hard they try. One has only to live with the consequences.

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