Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

The 34 stories in Ron Rash's Something Rich and Strange were selected from his previous collections, which include the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award–winning Burning Bright and the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award–winning Chemistry and Other Stories. Taken together, these pieces trace the development of a major writer whose Appalachian canvas encompasses lives as varied and universal as any in the U.S.

Rash's characters are beset by calamity and loss. In "The Ascent," a young boy finds a downed biplane on a snow-covered mountainside, its wealthy occupants killed in the crash. He takes their jewelry to his meth-addicted parents, who will sell it for drug money, but returns to repair the plane's wing, imagining it whole and ready to take the couple back to their burnished lives. In "The Lincolnites" a young woman, her husband away fighting for the Union, is forced into the unthinkable when a Confederate soldier stops by her farm. In "The Dowry," the local parson plays intermediary with shocking consequences when a raging Confederate colonel, one hand lost in the war, demands a hand in retribution as a condition for his daughter's marriage to Union soldier.

These stories are both tragic and surprising and become more confident, more probing over the course of the collection. The Appalachian Mountains, beautiful and foreboding, mirror the unknowable possibilities and insurmountable limits of Rash's characters' lives, characters whose voices are matter-of-fact even when they shock. Though they may be compromised by circumstance or temperament, Rash suggests each deserves the chance to tell his or her story and be heard. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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