Isn’t it interesting what will get someone to read a book? We all have things that automatically interest us in a book. One of mine is the state of North Carolina. My parents moved there when I was 12, to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I did my real growing up there, and it still feels like home to me. When I read the description of Ron Rash’s “The Cove,” I was drawn to it by the fact that it is set in those mountains.
“The Cove” begins with a man in the 1950s walking into a shadowy, creepy cove, which in this book is a dark valley, not a place where you keep boats. He stops at an abandoned homestead to draw a bucket of water from the well and finds something in that well that tells readers that this will not be a happy book, that it will not end well, that something very bad indeed has happened here.
Then the book flashes back to that same cove, but in early 1919, when the cove is the home of a sister and brother, Laurel and Hank. Laurel has a large, purple birthmark on her shoulder that has led the superstitious mountain folk to believe she is either cursed or a witch. As a result, most people shun her, and she is very lonely. Hank lost an arm in the early part of WWI, and is having a hard time patching up their farm as a result. A stranger arrives in the cove, a speechless man bearing a flute, sixty dollars, and a note explaining that his name is Walter. Hank hires him to help fix up the farm, Laurel falls in love with him, but an ominous shadow looms over all the happiness springing up in the cove. As I read this, I always had that opening scene in the back of my mind, the well’s contents and what they could mean.
I can’t say much more, as I’d be spoiling the story for anyone who would like to read it. If you like beautiful writing and learning about the impact our decisions have on the lives of others, “The Cove” could delight you. However, the characters do engage in activities that some readers may not appreciate. And it is dark and sometimes bleak, I will warn you of that, though it deals with joy and happiness as well. I found it a good book for the end of winter, when I am weary of grey skies and bare trees, but know spring will brighten the world again soon.