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Review: Burning Bright

February 27, 2011

Burning Bright is a short story collection by Ron Rash.  These twelve stories are connected by place rather than by time or characters.  They’re all set in Appalachia, so they’re a little dark and a few are somewhat disturbing.  These are important stories, though, because they give a voice to some of the most oppressed and poor people in our country.

I used to think that I didn’t enjoy short stories, but lately I’ve come to have an affinity for them.  They’re wonderful for when life is busy and you only have short periods of time to read – you can read a whole story in one sitting and don’t have to reacquaint yourself with characters when you have time to pick your book back up.

I found Burning Bright to be a wonderful book! Rash gets the proud spirit and dialogue of the Appalachian people perfect.  I do have to warn animal lovers that there’s a scene in the first story, Hard Times, that might disturb you – that story made me cringe more than once, but it was one of my favorite in the book.  Set during the Depression, it perfectly portrays the spirit of the time and its people.  Some other highlights of the book are:

  • Back of the Beyond –   The story of meth addiction and what it can do to a family.  This is a relevant story since methamphetamine seems to be such a horrible problem in rural America.
  • Dead Confederates – The main character decides to help rob the graves of Confederate soldiers to pay his mother’s medical bills.
  • Burning Bright – After a rash of arson fires in the area, a woman is forced to defend her new (and younger) husband.
  • The Corpse Bird – A young father becomes convinced that a child in his neighborhood will die if the owl perched in the tree in his backyard isn’t killed.

I enjoyed the whole collection, but Hard Times and The Corpse Bird lingered in my mind for days.  I found myself thinking about them and mulling them over quite often.  If you’re interested in short stories or Appalachia, this collection is a must read!

Since Ron Rash was born in South Carolina this counts as part of the Literary Road Trip.

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2011 5:40 am

    OK, the first time I tried writing the comment, it didn’t get published, so here I am trying again. 😀

    I am not a fan of short stories but sometimes I do come across good ones. I like the sound of Corpse Bird.

  2. February 27, 2011 7:05 am

    I absolutely love short stories. I love the sound of The Corpse Bird and Back of the Beyond. Thanks for the review!

  3. February 27, 2011 7:49 am

    I have always been fascinated by them. I should check this out. Great review.

    Does it take pace in NC mainly?

  4. February 27, 2011 8:33 am

    I’m kind of in the middle when it comes to short stories. I’m a big fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s. I’ll look for this book – I’ve heard so many good things about Ron Rash.

  5. February 27, 2011 8:34 am

    I haven’t read this book, but it does sound interesting. I may have to see if my library has a copy.

    Thanks for the visit to My Reading Corner today.

  6. February 27, 2011 8:36 am

    This sounds somewhat depressing!

  7. February 27, 2011 8:40 am

    I have not read this, but I have read Ron Rash’s Serena which was one of my 5 star reads for last year. I thought it was very very dark, all the characters were reprehensible, and yet I could not put it down; the setting was so evocative, I felt like I was there, and the story was riveting.
    I am not much for short stories and very rarely read them, but thanks to your review, I think I will give this a try as the collection sounds similar in many aspects to Serena. Thanks for the review 🙂

  8. February 27, 2011 9:35 am

    I do enjoy short stories, always have. I think a really good short story is a perfect little thing….especially if they are good enough to linger in your mind for days.

  9. February 27, 2011 9:58 am

    Although I’m not much for short stories, I am interested in anything to do with Appalachia so I’ll look for this book.

  10. February 27, 2011 10:15 am

    Ron Rash is one of my favorite authors. His One Foot in Eden is one of my favorite recently read novels. I liked this story collection a bit less, but he is still a master at creating character and conflict.

  11. February 27, 2011 11:16 am

    I adore short stories. I just finished “American Salvage” by Bonnie Jo Campbell, and your description of this one reminds me of her collection. A bit dark, the stories are set in the same locale (rural Michigan), kind of a rough and depressing read.

  12. February 27, 2011 12:06 pm

    I love it when a series of stories are connected by place. The import and impact of place upon people is something I find really interesting.

  13. February 27, 2011 2:11 pm

    Appalachia has always intrigued me, so I am adding this one to my list.

  14. Beth Hoffman permalink
    February 27, 2011 2:12 pm

    I enjoyed this collection too (and I skipped the upsetting parts involving animals as you had wisely suggested).

    Terrific review, Kathy!

  15. February 27, 2011 2:41 pm

    Will give Mrs Q a heads up about this one now.
    Kathy girl how do you do it?? Girl you devour books and churn out these amazing reviews on them. Seriously you’ll have to give me your secret but… I don’t think I can do the 11 hours of audio book… sorry can’t … nope… can’t. How are my boys going to eat if I do 11 hours of listening… oops sorry I am terrible at multitasking ;P

  16. February 27, 2011 2:53 pm

    I’m pretty reluctant to try out short stories too, but when I read them at the right time, I enjoy them so much!

  17. February 27, 2011 3:28 pm

    Hadn’t heard of this one, but short stories may be what I need right now. I have 3 books going and I just can’t seem to stay focused on any one of them. Thanks for the review.

  18. February 27, 2011 3:53 pm

    Your review has really sparked my interest in this collection of short stories!!

  19. February 27, 2011 4:16 pm

    I am glad you enjoyed this book. I have been the same with short stories, I was never a fan but sometimes they sure work. A short story can be great when you need one

  20. February 27, 2011 6:18 pm

    Aside from the animal thing, this sounds like a wonderful collection that I am very eager to read. It just sounds so inventive!

  21. February 27, 2011 7:32 pm

    I always say that I want to read more short stories, but I never do it. This collection, being as dark as it is really intrigues me and makes me think that it might be worth investigating. Thanks for the thoughtful review and for highlighting a few of the stories.

  22. February 27, 2011 7:57 pm

    I’ve learned that short stories (done right) can be so powerful and linger in the mind for a long time. This sounds like a collection of stories like that.

  23. February 27, 2011 8:23 pm

    This sounds very good, and I must resume my relationship with short stories.

  24. February 27, 2011 9:49 pm

    It’s amazing how some of the most powerful stories are also many times upsetting.

  25. February 27, 2011 10:20 pm

    I’ve heard wonderful things about Mr. Rash’s writing. It’s clear that his words made an impact on you.

  26. February 28, 2011 2:00 am

    I love short stories. I think I’m going to have to check this one out. Thanks for the review.

  27. Andi (Estella's Revenge) permalink
    February 28, 2011 1:25 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this collection until now, but I really do love collections that are tied together by location. This sounds hauntingly fantastic!

  28. March 1, 2011 7:25 am

    Wow — must add this to my list. I am learning to appreciate the short story.

  29. March 1, 2011 9:09 pm

    It is rare to enjoy an entire short story collection, so this must be a special book indeed. Thanks for blogging about it Kathy.

  30. March 1, 2011 11:14 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to this one; glad to hear it will not disappoint. Rash’s “Serena” was one of my fav books of 2009!

  31. Thoughts of Joy permalink
    March 5, 2011 8:50 am

    Woo! I love Ron Rash’s short stories! I have enjoyed everything I have read by him. This is another collection I must get. Thanks for the review. 🙂

  32. Kathleen permalink
    March 6, 2011 1:02 am

    I’m always looking for good short story recommendations. I’ve never heard of Ron Rash before so appreciate you letting me know about him.

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