Even Stevens’s #CBR4 Review #10: The Cove by Ron Rash
This book is a bit outside my wheelhouse (I admit it – I’m a shameless fan of all things dystopian and supernatural), but I read quite a few rave reviews and the plot did pique my interest. The premise is fairly simple: Laurel Shelton is a young woman who lives in the Cove, a place the townsfolk regard as bad luck and there are endless whispers that only bad things happen there. Laurel herself is rumored to be a witch, and as she is regularly shunned in town, she stays mostly to herself in the Cove. Laurel leads a quiet life, but things begin to change as Laurel’s brother, Hank, returns from serving in World War I and a mute stranger stumbles upon the Cove.
The reason I mention that this is out of my wheelhouse is that I did enjoy the book, but I feel like I’m not the best equipped person to discuss the various aspects of this book, but I’ll give it a shot. The plot is pretty much as described above, and although there are a few minor happenings here and there, not much happens during the bulk of the book. Not to say that it was boring, but it’s mostly a set up for the climax of the book, while simultaneously exploring the characters and their lives. Rash does a really good job of capturing life in a small town, and exploring the roles people play and prejudices that are formed and held, despite rationality or logic. Laurel is a very sympathetic character and I found myself rooting for her, despite the fact that a tragic event was practically guaranteed from the get-go. In no way is that a spoiler either; there’s a grim discovery in the first chapter that foreshadows future events and sets an ominous tone for the book. Rash also drops many references to the fact that the Cove is a place of gloom, that it’s cursed, only bad things happen there, etc. So, the question of whether or not something bad is going to happen, but to whom and to what extent.
Rash writes in a simple but evocative language, and captured the tension of certain pivotal moments really well. This is my first experience with his books, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. There were several times during my read that I felt like I was reading a John Steinbeck novel (it’s been a long time since I read one, but they had the same sort of feel to me). There’s a lot going on under the surface and the characterization is key to the story. Laurel is a great character, but my favorite depiction was the cowardly and arrogant Chauncey, who looked down on everyone else while doing nothing worthwhile himself. He’s a classic example of a character you love to hate and Rash does a beautiful job in writing him. I would recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of a more classic style of literature and anyone that likes a good dose of character study.