Two first-rate novelists descend on Mississippi this week, and we've managed to secure them both for a special event at Turnrow Books on Friday evening, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Authors Ron Rash and Robert Olmstead, two Turnrow favorites, will speak about their work, perhaps treat us to a sample reading, and there will be musical entertainment as well. If you've been putting off coming to an event this season at Turnrow, this is the one you'll want to attend.
Ron Rash, since his 2002 debut novel One Foot in Eden, has become of the South's most popular writers. One Foot in Eden and his last novel, Serena, are perennial favorites and bestsellers here, and we're proud to have him back to talk about his latest novel, The Cove.
Laurel Shelton is the heroine of Rash's new novel. She lives as an outcast in an isolated, cursed territory in the Appalachians known as "the Cove." She lives with her brother, just back from overseas after World War I and planning to marry. The future looks lonely for Laurel until she finds a mute man, ravaged by yellow jacket stings, while walking in the woods, and she brings him home to nurse back to health. She grows fond of the man, a musician on his way to New York, and when he stays on to help her brother whip the homestead into shape, a romance takes root. But the stranger is harboring a secret, one that may not sit well with the superstitious locals. It all leads to a tense and moving climax.
Rash has found popularity among readers and critics alike, and it may be that he knows how to tell a broadly appealing story in a rich, focused prose that rarely misses a beat. In The Cove, he has crafted an aching love story accessible enough for anyone who wants to step up from Nicholas Sparks to a gothic drama worthy of devoted Cormac McCarthy readers.
Robert Olmstead wrote one of our favorites from the last several years, Coal Black Horse, a quiet and savage novel about a boy sent to retrieve his father from the battlefield at Gettysburg. Similarly, in The Coldest Night, Olmstead has conjured his poetic might to tell the story of a teen-aged stable boy who falls in love with a rich girl who comes to ride horses. They engage in a scandalous affair and skip town before her father intervenes, and after the reality of their circumstances comes to bear on the romance, the young man sets off for the war in Korea. The book's mid-section depicts his staggering ordeal and we ultimately follow him home to a life of irrevocable change.
Olmstead's prose is hypnotic, spare and muscular, rippled with layers of meaning and wisdom. There's a beautiful balance of lightness and weight that reminds one of Hemingway, or even a literary version of a Terrence Malick film. It's an experience not to be taken lightly and something essential for anyone who appreciates the power of an impeccably crafted sentence.
To temper the evening with the sounds of the mountain, we've invited Cecil Abels, who never fails to entertain, and his new study, Alanna Mosely, to perform some highland folk and bluegrass. We hope you can make it out. A signing and reception for the writer begins at 5:30 p.m. with the readings, remarks and music to start at 6. Hit the links above to reserve signed copies if you can't make it.