By the time I’m over the barbed-wire fence, I can look back and no longer tell what was and what is.
-from “The Woman at the Pond”
Welcome to the second installment of my thoughts on the stories in Ron Rash’s collection Something Rich and Strange!
Where The Map Ends – A story that shows the complexities of the Civil War – specifically in this corner of North Carolina.
Those Who Are Dead Are Only Now Forgiven – Another story about meth addiction framed around a haunted house. The ending was not what I was expecting. Meth addiction is a common occurence in these stories and the ones in which its the main focus are agonizing.
Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes – More men in their 80’s and this time they are trying to catch a fish that nobody believes exists. This is one of the funnier stories in the collection-at least so far.
Falling Star – From the perspective of a husband who sees his marriage falling apart. The marriage doesn’t actually end during the story but the husband’s predictions seem very spot on.
The Magic Bus – 1960’s San Francisco meets 1960’s rural North Carolina – marijuana vs. tobacco. Who is the winner in the underlying conflict? That’s one of those book club questions. I’ll say North Carolina has a slight edge. But you can look at it from numerous perspectives.
Something Rich and Strange – The situation in one of the shorter stories in the collection gives an appearance of something supernatural. Whether that is truly the case I think is up to the reader.
The Dowry – This is a well-written story (as they all have been) with interesting Civil War- based characters, themes and moral questions. It just wasn’t my favorite. Certainly a church pastor can play a role in healing a community or family but this seemed to go a tad too far.
A Sort of Miracle – Denton’s dislike for the state of Florida is hilarious:
It was a wonder the Founding Fathers hadn’t just sawed the damn state off and let it drift away. A state where the most famous person went around pretending to be an eight-foot-tall mouse.
His brothers-in-law are named Baroque and Marlboro. Everyone knows where Marlboro’s name came from but nobody knows how Baroque was named. This reminds me very much of Tobias Wolff’s story “Hunters in the Snow” yet with its own spin.
The Corpse Bird – Mountain superstitions haven’t gone away even in the present time. I thought I knew where this story was headed but it didn’t quite get there.
Dead Confederates – Yes, grave robbing can be both funny and disturbing but I thought this one went on a little too long.
The Woman at the Pond – The reflections of the protagonist gave this story more power than the simple plot would have given it.
And for the favorite of this group? A Sort of Miracle.