Saints at the River: A Novel
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A major new Southern voice emerges in this novel about a town divided by the aftermath of a tragic accident--and the woman caught in the middle
When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dangerous precedent. Torn between the two sides is Maggie Glenn, a twenty-eight-year-old newspaper photographer who grew up in the town and has been sent to document the incident. Since leaving home almost ten years ago, Maggie has done her best to avoid her father, but now, as the town's conflict opens old wounds, she finds herself revisiting the past she's fought so hard to leave behind. Meanwhile, the reporter who's accompanied her to cover the story turns out to have a painful past of his own, and one that might stand in the way of their romance.
Drawing on the same lyrical prose and strong sense of place that distinguished his award-winning first novel, One Foot in Eden, Ron Rash has written a book about the deepest human themes: the love of the land, the hold of the dead on the living, and the need to dive beneath the surface to arrive at a deeper truth. Saints at the River confirms the arrival of one of today's most gifted storytellers.
much suffering could overwhelm the heart. In my more generous moments I had wondered the same about Luke. “PHILLIPS HAD BETTER WATCH OUT,” BILLY SAID, AFTER SEVERAL minutes passed, “or this thing is going to get ugly real fast.” Sheriff Cantrell must have felt the same way, because he quickly stepped to the lectern and spoke to the ranger. Hubert McClure edged down the wall closer to Luke’s group. I searched the room for Earl Wilkinson. I was curious as to which side he was taking. He stood by
under Uncle Mark’s long-sleeved flannel shirt. My arm ached from the pail’s weight. The thin handle dug its imprint on my palm. I sat down in a gap among the bushes, my gaze crossing over Tamassee toward Licklog Mountain. Aunt Margaret had come and stood behind me, her hand brushing leaf litter from my hair as she spoke. Aunt Margaret’s prophecy had been correct, for college and each new job took me farther from the mountains—first Clemson, then Laurens, and now Columbia. It had not been until
with the Clemson town newspaper. I wrote articles, but photography was what I did best, winning some state awards for weeklies. When the Laurens paper called, they were looking for a photographer, not a writer. Now I watched as Luke and Carolyn grew smaller, the downstream angle such that they appeared cut in half, their heads, arms, and torsos bobbing in the current. I wondered if Carolyn possessed the cool cynicism so many women her age displayed toward relationships. The way she’d reached
had found bedrock and they began to drill. “Looks like they made up their minds to try,” Billy said. A clattering suddenly rose from above Wolf Cliff, and a helicopter came into view. The machine hovered above the trees like a dragonfly, its shadow falling on the water as a cameraman leaned out to film. The river rats thrust their middle fingers in the air. Several people on the bank waved. Billy stood and dusted off the back of his jeans. “I should have known better than to come,” he said.
expecting.” In my mind I followed the telephone lines up Highway 76 and through pasture and orchard edge, down Damascus Church Road, then across the pasture to where my father sat in his front room, the glassed photographs of his wife and children staring down on him. “About last week,” I said, and paused. What I wanted to say was I was sorry, sorry for a lot of things. But the words wouldn’t come. Because I was imagining how Wanda or Jill Moseley would react to my words, how they’d be