Reviewed by Meygan
I love villains. There, I said it. Judge me all you want, but I can’t stand to watch a movie or read a book with a villain that is dull or not wicked enough. This is not to say that I want the villain to win, per se. Even though I love the Joker, Bane, Poison Ivy, and other various Batman characters, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want Batman to have justice. It just means that I love a villain who can capture my attention and keep me enthralled until the part where he or she must be defeated. With that said, Serena in Ron Rash’s Serena is conniving, malicious, demanding, and I couldn’t get enough of her.
Serena and Pemberton are newlyweds and they are deeply, madly infatuated with one another. They have moved from Boston to the mountains of North Carolina in order to establish a logging company. It is apparent that Pemberton and Serena are not hurting for cash by any means, but as the old saying goes, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, which is a quote they seem to support. The town’s men do not know what to think of Serena. She doesn’t dress like “normal” women by wearing dresses. Instead, she wears pants and comfortable shoes so she can assist her husband in whatever work there is to be done. She is also opinionated and boisterous—something else most of the men do not approve of. In her spare time, Serena trains an Eagle to kill poisonous snakes within the mountains of their new home. Even though people are amazed and grateful due to the fact that there are less poisonous snakes, they wonder how she trained the bird so well. (All I could picture at that point was a malevolent queen sitting upon her throne, stroking the head of her obedient, sinister pet.)
Pemberton and Serena are both willing to do whatever it takes (or kill whoever) in order to rise to the top. While Pemberton is not innocent, it is often Serena who plays devil’s advocate, metaphorically perched upon his shoulder, whispering what needs to be done to make things “right”. However, Serena is not the only one who the town has to become accustomed to. Pemberton has made some enemies along the way, especially when a girl he has impregnated before meeting Serena brings her father to meet Pemberton at the train station. Yes, Serena is well aware of the girl and the baby, but her warning for Rachel to stay away from her husband is stern and clear.
There are many stories within the story, but my favorite parts were from Rachel’s point of view. My heart goes out to the young mother who works for the man who fathered her child but cannot contact due to his domineering wife. I think Ron Rash did a wonderful job with character and plot development in Serena. This was the first Ron Rash novel I had read, but this certainly won’t be the last.