By: Ron Rash
Subject Matter: Dams; Design and construction; Appalachian region; Southern; Real estate development; Relocation; Housing; Loss; Psychology; Mountain life
I don’t typically love mystery.
But One Foot in Eden isn’t your typical detective fiction.
Ron Rash is an Appalachian Studies scholar from Western Carolina University, and this book is a deep look at an Appalachian community. It’s centered around a riveting whodunnit murder case that’s only a whodunnit for so long. I remember being absolutely tickled at being wrong when Rash threw in a surprise twist, knocking me off my prideful pedestal.
The book is told in five sections, and each section is narrated by a different character. The story/stories span about 18 years, and, though intricately woven, it’s almost like reading five short stories, because each characterization and development and build stands on its own.
I’m wonderfully impressed by Rash.
He takes a look at Appalachia, at exploitation, at the value of land, at family, at love, at passion, at superstition, at history and roots, and at truth.
(I am LOLLING at the Library of Congress subject headings – which, if you didn’t know, is where I get the “subject matter” info for my reviews from. They’re technically accurate but so, so far from the true guts of this novel.)
He depicts humanity in love and in hate, in confusion and in clarity. It’s dark yet hopeful, terribly sad yet beautiful.
This book hit home locally for me, and tugged deep on my memories of the mountains I called home for about four years. It’s set in Oconee County, South Carolina, and depicts a fictional plot weaved into a very real event: the damming of the Jocassee Gorges area by Duke Power. Jocassee is a Cherokee word meaning “Place of the Lost One,” an allusion Rash carries through to the very last words of his novel.
But even if you’ve got no interest in Carolina or Appalachia (shame on you! hehe), I think you’ll enjoy Rash’s warm, heartbreaking, and natural writing style.
If you like One Foot in Eden, here are some suggestions:
(for books referenced by Rash in this novel)
Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida by William Bartram
Red Carolinians by Chapman James Milling
(for more Appalachian literature)
Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina
Where the Lilies Bloom by Vera and Bill Cleaver
(for themes of change)
The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
Wish You Well by David Baldacci
(for family secrets)
Family Linen by Lee Smith
(for more by Rash)
Saints at the River by Ron Rash
The World Made Straight by Ron Rash
Serena by Ron Rash
The Cove by Ron Rash
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ground Rules by Renee Swann
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah