past, so I won't delve into my affinity for his writing style and deep character development. His latest novel, The Cove, left me sucker-punched (in the best way literature possibly can) and reading into the wee hours of the night.
The Cove takes place during WWI and tells the story of Laurel Shelton, a lonely young woman thought to be a witch by her neighbors in Mars Hill, North Carolina. She was born with a dark birthmark, and everyone truly believes that she is responsible for the dark and gloom of the cove. With both of her parents dead, it's Laurel and her brother, Hank, against the townsfolk. When Hank reveals that he is planning to marry a local girl and leave Laurel in the cove by herself, Laurel begins to think that she may live the rest of her life as a hermit.
A man stumbles near their home one day, and Laurel's fear dissipates. The stranger cannot speak, but he can play the flute beautifully, as well as help Hank prepare the small farm for the winter. Soon, Laurel is planning a future away from Mars Hill, but how can she trust a man who cannot tell her where he's been?
This story is woven with a separate narrative about Chauncey Feith, a young army recruiter in town who is also a bit of an outcast; rather than fight in Europe, he stays behind to enlist others. He's always a bit on edge, and feels the need to prove himself as an important person in his community.
Their storylines meet in a tragic way, and Rash does a great job of switching up the reader's feelings for Chauncey so you never quite know what to expect of him. The book got off to a slow start, but ended with me staying up until 2am on Sunday to finish it. Beautiful prose, fleshed-out characters, vivid locale...everything I would expect from Ron Rash.