Posted in Short Stories

Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash (Part 2)

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.



5 thoughts on “Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash (Part 2)

  1. Of these ones, my favorites were “Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes” and “The Dowry.” I liked the way the minister worked his way around the old man’s desire for a pound of flesh — it reminded me of the way Rabbi Small in the books by Harry Kemelman uses hair-splitting arguments to settle problems.

    “Dead Confederates” definitely was too long.

    1. Loved “Their Ancient, Glittereing Eyes”, too. I liked the pound of flesh concept behind “The Dowry” and you’re right, the minister did work around what the old man wanted. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to come from the minister. I guess the minister was interceding on behalf of Ethan.

  2. I liked The Corpse Bird and The Magic Bus a lot too. I was just checking my “cheat sheet” that I made prior to my bookclub’s meeting on this book, where I wrote one-sentence summary/reminders of what each story was about. Some of them – reading the summary again now – are quite humorous, e.g. for “A Sort of Miracle” I wrote: “Bear hunt; two rednecks accompany their brother in law who falls through ice and dies of hypothermia.” ha!

    Your next up story, “A Servant of History” would’ve made for a good Twilight Zone episode, I think.

    1. I read “A Servant of History” last night and yeah I could see it being a Twilight Zone episode. I found a dark humor in it, too. I think overall I liked the stories in my first post than the ones in my second post -but I have enjoyed all of these. I don’t think I’ve read a collection in which I’ve pretty much enjoyed every story like this one (so far I have anyway).

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