Ron Rash's latest novel "The Cove"

Set in the rugged mountains of North Carolina during the end of WWI, The Cove by Ron Rash is an intriguing mix of historical fiction and Gothic romance.  Laurel Shelton is a young woman ostracized all her life by the town folk of Mars Hill who believe she’s a witch.  Laurel lives with her brother Hank, who has recently returned from the war, on an isolated farm called the cove that is often shadowed by a large cliff overhang.  One day Laurel discovers a mysterious stranger in the woods, a flute-playing mute, and a romance develops.

Though the end of the war is near, xenophobia and patriotic fervor are at a fever pitch amongst the villagers. Chauncey Feith, an ambitious yet dimwitted army recruiter who has conveniently avoided conscription himself, is on the hunt for an escaped German prisoner from the near-by internment camp. 

The suspense builds as one hopes that reasonable sensibilities will prevail, but fears that tragic consequences are the likely result.

The Cove is a marvelous example of regional writing full of Appalachian culture, colorful dialogue, and lyrical writing.  I was haunted by the story.  Even though the setting is almost 100 years ago, it feels timely with its themes of intolerance and wartime politics. 

Ron Rash is a professor at Western Carolina University and the author of the best-selling Serena.  He got the idea for The Cove while researching local history and discovered that there had actually been a German internment camp in North Carolina during WWI. According to Mr. Rash, “This camp was not for POW’s.  It was for German civilians who happened to be marooned in the United States when the U.S. entered the war.”

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