By Ron Rash
Ecco, $25.99, 272 pages

Author Ron Rash brings the rugged Appalachians to life in his new book The Cove. World War II and its aftermath provide a dramatic backdrop to this multi-faceted peek into a small town in North Carolina in 1917. The Cove tells the story of a doomed love affair between a lonely woman and an enigmatic stranger. Laurel Shelton and her brother Hank live on a backwoods farm in an area the locals believe is cursed. Laurel is considered to be a witch by the locals and her brother is shunned as well. Their mother and father have died. Hank returns from the war missing a hand, but is determined to marry a local girl and move off the family farm. Laurel feels she is doomed to a life of loneliness. When Laurel discovers a vagrant on the property, her life seems to change. The vagrant plays the flute and Laurel feels that she has found happiness for the first time in her life. Yet when dangerous secrets are revealed, the siblings find themselves in harm’s way. The Cove is both unsentimental and hauntingly sad. Rash’s keen eye for detail and elegant prose transports the reader back in time. It is another powerful read by the author who The New Yorker has compared to both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.

Reviewed by Diane Prokop