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Serena

Serena

By Ron Rash

Narrated by Phil Gigante


Serena

By Ron Rash

Narrated by Phil Gigante

ratings:
3.5/5 (49 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Released:
Oct 7, 2008
ISBN:
9781423373698
Format:
Audiobook

Description

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton arrive in North Carolina to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains-but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any worker, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness.

Together Serena and George ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of their favor. But when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out on her own to kill the son George had without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking finale.

Released:
Oct 7, 2008
ISBN:
9781423373698
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller Serena and Above the Waterfall, in addition to four prizewinning novels, including The Cove, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; four collections of poems; and six collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O. Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.


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What people think about Serena

3.7
49 ratings / 63 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I don't know exactly what I was expecting when I read this book -- maybe a North Country or Coal Miner's Daughter brand of feminine heroism in hill country.

    But Serena is an antiheroine, as you'll discover pretty shortly after she makes her appearance. She's smart, attractive, devious, and bloodthirsty. If she has a redeeming quality, it's a fierce and intelligent ambition, but then there's a fine line between ambition and cruelty (or maybe the former fuels the latter).

    In short, she's a fascinating character, but the real protagonist is her husband, whom she calls by his last name (and hers): Pemberton. He's a big, tough guy, unafraid of hard work and fights to the death, and seems like he and Serena might actually be a perfect (terrifying) pair.

    But there's trouble in the gangstas' paradise -- can he really live up to Serena's standards of ruthlessness, or will he disappoint her by showing a sliver of compassion at exactly the wrong moment?

    Ron Rash does an excellent job of leaving that question dangling in front of the reader for nearly the whole book. At every turn, I wanted to know how Pemberton was going to react, and that kept me metaphorically on the edge of my seat. Well worth a read if you enjoy complex characters, or are interested in the backgrounded-yet-highlighted tension between loggers and the nascent development of national parks.
  • (3/5)
    The reviews I had read prior to my reading this novel were very polarized. Many loved it, many hated it. The impression it left me lies somewhere in the middle.

    Ron Rash's prose is beautiful. It is realistic and earthy, but not raw or unpolished and it helps you visualize the harsh Appalachian landscape, full of lore and superstitions, which is slowly falling prey to the needs of the developing, modern world. The heart of the novel is Serena, a deeply flawed, mysterious heroine that bends eagles and men alike to her will. Pemberton, her husband, has some sins of the past to atone for. The relationship between the married, young couple is the element that attracts the reader's attention, in my opinion. And there lies the fault of the novel.

    When the two main characters are absent, Serena simply seizes to exist. Every other character is boring, their conversations are provincial and deeply sexist. Of course, this last remark may be somehow unjust, considering the time and setting of the novel. We have men who feel threatened by a powerful woman. In addition, the animal violence was too much.The mad preacher is infuriatingly annoying, and Rachel is a snooze-fest, her only function lies to additional melodrama. She is weak, she only thinks and never acts, a character I simply didn't care about. As a result, much skimming and skipping pages took place in a novel that is not particularly long.

    I could see the end coming from a distance when Pemberton expressed the will to aid Rachel and his illegitimate son so I wasn't that surprised. Was it a just ending? Not particularly, but it was a realistic one. Furthermore, I was disappointed with the fact that we never get to know the reason Serena was such a cruel, ruthless, deranged person. Pemberton was much more developed, Serena sometimes came across as one-dimensional. In that sense, she was more a Medea than a Lady Macbeth, because there is not an ounce of remorse in her. Somehow, in retrospect, I think that the end left some considerable loose ends.

    I will definitely read more works by Ron Rush, but my high expectations for Serena were not fulfilled.
  • (5/5)
    I was told this book was hauntingly good and it was. So much so that I haven't been able to really create coherent thoughts to make up a sufficient review. I will say that I am now a Ron Rash fan and I'm mad I didn't pick this one up sooner.
  • (3/5)
    Although this book isn't exactly what I was expecting, it did not disappoint. The characters are developed very well and their actions are quite predictable once you get to know them. So much so, that it is hard to put the book down when you realize something is about to happen to someone you may or may not like. Unfortunately, there is little in between, the characters are polarizing and good and bad are clear cut. The only character growth is that the bad get badder and the good get righteous. I would have liked a little more historical background on the formation of Smokey Mountains National Park and more detail about the minor characters role in its creation. There isn't much description of the environmental costs of the lumber industry and the promised emphasis on the burgeoning environmental movement is negligible. However the book's title is Serena and there is no doubt that this book is about her and her voracious appetite for power.
  • (2/5)
    It had potential. In my opinion, this book flopped just as bad as the movie. Although, I do have to admit this is one of those few times that I actually enjoyed the movie more than the book. The characters and plot were awesome, but all the unnecessary detail about the wood logging itself lost my interest. The ending however is pretty epic.
  • (3/5)
    Where do I start! This book was not what I expected even though the books description sounded interesting. After the first chapter I disliked both main characters. I had hoped for a turn around but through the entire book I found myself rooting against them as I'm sure was the point. The story itself is fine, nothing to get excited about. However I found myself bored at times. It was interesting enough that I completed the book but overall I just couldn't connect. Hard to believe they made a movie out of this. Hollywood would definitely need to add some "magic"!
  • (3/5)
    Serena was an unusually strong women in the 1930's depression. From the beginning when she walked off the train to be confronted by her new husband's pregnant mistress and her father, to the end of the book, she proved to be as strong, greedy and as ruthless as any man. It was interesting to learn a little more about the logging business in Appalachia during that time and the beginning of our national parks. Interesting book, but was disturbing at times.
  • (5/5)
    I picked this book for book club after I saw that Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper were starring in the yet to be produced movie. It was awesome. Completely unlike anything I read in the previews. I was not expecting what was going to happen on the next page... ever. An absolute must read!
  • (4/5)
    It definitely reminded me of Cold Mountain and took a little bit for me to get into, but it was well worth it.
  • (4/5)
    Haunting story of timber barons in early 20th-century North Carolina. On a trip to Boston George Pemberton is enchanted by and marries young orphan Serena. She is lovely and strong, but soon her strength in consolidating their holdings and their personal life moves into uncomfortable. She earns the respect of the loggers with her timber knowledge, but when she brings an eagle into camp and becomes more solemn and remote, What are the borders between strength and psychopath?As a lover of the North Carolina mountains, I don't think this story will slip from my mind any time soon -- but it was a bit stilted. I cannot wholeheartedly recommend.
  • (4/5)
    Maybe I'm partial because of the setting (Western North Carolina), but I really enjoyed this story. The author brings the characters and locales to life, and I enjoyed learning more about the history and speech patterns of the area. I will definitely be checking out Rash's other books.
  • (5/5)
    Wow! This book is incredible! It can be a little hard to read due to the fact that it's about a logging company in the 20's. There are quite a bit of thrilling and suspenseful parts that kept me intrigued. Serena is quite the villain and you find out just how far she is willing to go to get what she wants.
  • (4/5)
    This was a gripping story once I got into it, and I could really envision Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as the main characters.

    At first, I was put off by the way Pemberton and Serena spoke, the language read as very stilted, and almost romance novel like. However, the more I became used to their voices, the more I began to think Rash had really done his due diligence because the formality of their speech during this time frame was appropriate. He was exceptionally good at the colloquial speech of other characters and it was there I began to think the differences were intentional.

    Another small nit, that again, (just my opinion) had the overtone of a romance novel, dealt with the workers in the lumber camp, and anyone for that matter, who encountered Serena, and how they perceived her. She couldn't make a mistake, she was revered, worshipped, she was the best at this, the best at that, tamed an eagle, made the best deals, and on and on. She wasn't human, no flaws, was robotic, and cold - but -maybe this was also intentional on Rash's part. She used people until they no longer served a purpose.

    I found the ending not unsurprising, but I have to say, it definitely had me flipping the pages as fast as I could go.
  • (4/5)
    A portrait of a strong, heartless, evil woman. Beautiful, brilliant, and charismatic with more internal strength and fortitude than any man. It seems she has met her equal in the strong wealthy lumber baron from Boston. She charms him and reels him in, despite multiple warnings from others, and then becomes his partner in life as well as in business. Soon she is basically running the whole show with, ultimately, disastrous results with regards to her partner.

    The story is well written with well developed characters. There is a very satisfying ending as her evil comes full circle and everyone gets their just due.

    A fine performance by the narrator!
  • (5/5)
    i picked up this book because every time I read a review of The Cove, or any other Ron Rash books, readers mentioned this book, and how amazing it was. I did not stop to read the back cover or anything about the book, just opened it up and started reading. I am so glad I came to it that way - no plot give-aways, no pre-conceptions.

    The characters in this novel are so well written and memorable. The settings, the descriptions of place, you are there, you see what the characters see, smell, taste. hear. The writing is so good. The story is engrossing, disturbing and unforgettable. The movie is being made - read the book first!!
  • (3/5)
    Did Serena ever really love Pemberton? A resounding capital N-O !!!
    She was a greedy, obsessive woman who cut down everything and everyone in her way. In the end a sixteen year-old Rachel, thwarted her murderous plot and eventually finds a way to slay the “dragon” lady.
    It seems hard to “like” a sometimes violent book such as this but I think it reflected the harsh cruelty of life in the Depression era, the timber industry and the felled mountains and ruined rivers before the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park . Also it was in tune with current environmental movements to save Mother Earth from our self-destructive ways.
  • (3/5)
    This is a very well written book. It is nothing like I thought it would be and then I found out the characters are real people in history it unnerved me even more. Serena is a ruthless person that you do not want to cross. It comes out more and more as the story goes along and to think she and Pemberton her husband aren't even 30 yet. I won't go into details of the story. I will just say that Serena will make you mad and so will her husband and you will want to reach in and hurt them. But I think that was the way it was back in the 1920s. It is a good book.
  • (2/5)
    A story of the brutal, greedy, and relentlessness of profiteers and the logging industry. Basically, just greed.
  • (4/5)
    In this the second novel I've read by this author we return to the woods of North Carolina in 1929 where George Pemberton, the wealthy heir of Boston Lumber, meets the beguiling Serena, also an experienced businesswomen whose family owned a lumber company in Colorado. They are beautiful, healthy, and immediately attracted the each other. Their idyllic courtship, marriage and honeymoon train ride back to his logging camp in Carolina is quickly spoiled by a train station conflict. It seems one of the girls at the camp was left pregnant and her father means to confront Pemberton. A brief knife fight leaves a dead father, a now orphaned pregnant girl, and a cold hearted Serena who is not at all upset with her new husband but rather lets this new woman know she is to expect nothing from them ever again. She takes the handsome ivory handled knife from the dead father and returns to his daughter saying, "That money will help when the child is born,” Serena says coolly. “It’s all you’ll ever get from my husband and me." And that's the first chapter. Serena goes on to impress the men in the camp with her knowledge of the logging business, her acumen with a rifle, even her ability to train an eagle to kill rattlesnakes. But it's the men in the camp that first seem to hint there's something amiss about this woman. Their suspicions are confirmed as everyone who crosses the Pembertons winds up dead. While the empire grows, we also are given glimpses of Rachel and Jacob as she struggles to survive raising her son, the son whose father never acknowledged him. Other colorful characters pepper the action, including an old fashioned, can't be bought sherif, a naturalist who is arguing for a national park, and a one armed henchman who does Serena's bidding. The author dies a nice job describing the beauty of the mountains and has done the research to render this setting accurately. Having just read East of Eden, Serena picked up where Kate left off as being one of the most disturbing characters in literature. I would be interested in seeing Jennifer Lawrence playing her part in the movie.From the Guardian:The story opens in 1929, as the Great Depression overwhelms a nation. As a novel about the greed that has brought a country to its knees, it critiques the present as well as the past.
  • (5/5)
    Whoa. Shit. Wow. Intense, dark, atmospheric story of life in a lumber camp in North Carolina's Appalachia. A fabulous female character, though totally opaque and therefore both intriguing and terrifying. Can't decide if the opacity makes the book better or worse, but this one will haunt.
  • (5/5)
    I just have one thing to say: Ron Rash is phenomenal and you must go read everything this man has written.
  • (4/5)
    I am usually not a huge fan of books set in Appalachia. The area is poverty stricken and books set there tend to be depressing. This story was an exception for me though. Once I started it I never put it down. The Serena of the title is a Martha Stewart of the North Carolina woods. She knows how to do everything expertly. When she marries her husband George Pemberton her special skill set enhances his lumber business exponentially. Of course there is a price to progress, a death (or many) here or there, nothing too trifling to them. In fact there is nothing Serena can't do except give George an heir. Unfortunately for Rachel, that was just the thing she did before Serena's arrival. She and her young son get caught in Serena's cross hairs as she embarks on their utter annihilation and that of anyone else who stands in her way.I picked up this book because I saw that it is being made into a movie staring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. I think Jennifer will be perfect as Serena. She has the right mix of likability with an undercut of ruthlessness. I really enjoyed this story. I wasn't sure which way it was going and the ending was a firecracker. I also liked how far the novel went to wrap up the story. It was enthralling to the last page. I don't think I've ever read about a character quite like Serena. Although no explanation is ever given for why Serena is a diabolical as she is in the end I guess it doesn't matter. It was enough to be along on her hellish ride.
  • (5/5)
    Overlooking the unfortunate simple errors that occurred toward the last 1/4 of this Kindle version, it was well written and powerful. The one thing I hated more than anything was that Pemberton appeared to have gone first by a good 50 years. If that were true, that would be sad, because of the two, he had at least an inkling of regret for things that occurred. Serena did not. She was pure Satan. She should have died long, long before. Ron wrote a fabulous book. I will definitely read more of his prose. (I don't do poetry at the risk of returning to my school days when I was forced to read it.)
  • (4/5)
    If you're wanting warm fuzzies, inspiring female role models*, altruism, or characters you'll hold in your heart, this is not the book for you. But if you want a well written novel about the early days of the depression, logging in North Carolina, development of the US National Park System, and one of the most ruthless women you'll meet in literature, pick Serena up.This book takes place near our cabin, just over the NC state line, which is one of the reasons I like to read Ron Rash -- he sets many of his works in my stomping grounds. I've hiked and camped in these hills, and treasure the beauty of the land. It amazes me whenever I realize how much of this breathtaking landscape was brutalized by the forces of man. In Serena the reader is given a back seat into the logging industry, circa 1929, and a glimpse into the lives of the George and Serena Pemberton, and their partners in a large logging company. George Pemberton had the misfortune to not follow the advice my mother-in-law gave her teenage sons (the bit about having a good time, but "keep your pecker in your pants") and before his marriage to Serena impregnated a local girl. As the Pembertons narrow their focus on their plans for the company ("narrow their focus" being a euphemism for killing off their partners and competition), the Missus shifts her focus to the problem of to her husband's bastard, and the plot thickens. Beautiful, clever, passionate, ruthless -- that's Serena. And this book plays out the suspense of the rape of the land, and the single-minded quest for power of one intense, memorable woman.**unless you want to be the next Lucrezia Borgia orCruella de Vil.
  • (3/5)
    A historical fiction based in the early 1920's. A man and his wife by land to cut down the timber. She has her eyes set on buying in Brazil and will stop at nothing to achieve her dream. She miscarries late in her pregnancy and decides she wants to kill her husbands illigitamate child and his mother. When she finds her husband has set out to protect them, she becomes ruthless.
  • (1/5)
    I'm truly puzzled by all the rave reviews of this book. Read this because my book club picked it, and continued reading because of the rave reviews, hoping to discover whatever I was missing.

    I did like the beautiful descriptions of the western North Carolina wilderness and logging practices. However, even those were often interrupted by stilted language, and sometimes verbs in past tense when they should've been in present tense, and vice-versa. (Editors, where were you?)

    Granted, that's a nit. My big dislike is the main characters. Serena is a one dimensional villain: highly intelligent, beautiful, mesmerizing when it suited her, insatiably greedy, and willing to destroy anyone or anything that got in her way, from arson to clear-cutting a wilderness to murder. Why? We don't know why, we never really get in her head. Pemberton, her husband and pussy-whipped stooge, goes along with everything except murdering his bastard child, and the only reason we see for that is because the child resembles him so strongly. He doesn't even have the cojones to openly protect his child.

    The only decent, disinterested person is Sheriff McDowell, but he's a minor character. Rachel is mildly interesting, but a) she too is a minor character, not appearing in too many pages, and b) she's protecting herself and her child.

    Serena and Pemberton brutally mow down things that get in their way, be they trees or people. Most of the book is telling, not showing; I rarely felt tension or like I was IN the story. The repeated stylistic choice of burying dialogue within a block of description, without quotation marks, I found distracting, annoying, and to no real purpose, I said. (Yes, that's how it was done.)

    There's an interchangeable trio of loggers who serve as something of a Greek chorus of commentary, "How long do you think it'll be before Serena has so-and-so-killed?" Their dialogue using local expressions is the second-best thing in the book, but it doesn't move the plot along (if there is a plot), and they don't themselves do anything but keep their heads down, chop down trees, and privately gossip on the side.

    If you like dark characters from a safe emotional distance, and rambling stories, you might like this.
  • (3/5)
    Can I just say how happy I am to be done with this book? I think it took me forever and a day to read it. It's not that it's a particularly bad book, but it was not to my tastes and frankly I was bored for most of it. The events alluded to in the synopsis don't really happen until the last quarter of the book and the child and his mother play a very small role in it. The rest is largely the day to day happenings of the logging camp.

    I enjoyed the loggers' uneducated observations about their bosses, but was less enamored with those bosses themselves. They were such intensely dislikable people (as they were meant to be). He was simply a snobbish product of his time. She, however, was a homicidal psychopath.

    All in all, probably a fine read for someone more inclined to enjoy the genre. I read it because my book club chose it this month. It's unlikely I would have picked it up otherwise.
  • (4/5)
    This is as close to a five as I have read in a long time. Great characters, great writing, interesting and unique story.
  • (5/5)
    Spectacular! I finished this book & needed a couple days to just think about it before saying anything. I'm always thrilled when a book won't leave me alone after the reading is done. I loved this story & can honestly say that Serena was beyond formidable. I can't give away the best bits but honestly, there's something heartbreaking & altogether alluring in Pemberton when he's confronted with the truth of his end & is still determined to prove himself worthy of her. That was fascinating. I can't say Pemberton was blameless but I certainly don't think he deserved all that he got. The Coda at the end was a great bow on the story but I can honestly say that even without it, I would have been completely satisfied with the ending. Great characters & lush writing. I highly recommend this one.
  • (3/5)
    Wow, all I can say is... what a stone cold bitch! Serena is like a magestic, powerful panther that will gobble you up first chance she gets! I can hardly imagine how Jennifer Lawrence is going to play such a vile and twisted woman later this year on the big screen, so obviously I'll have to go see the movie version as well.This award winning novel takes place in the North Carolina mountains amidst the Great Depression and follows newlyweds Serena and George Pemberton as they build focus on building and improving their timber empire in the mountains. Serena has decided that nothing or no one will get in their way, she is a resourceful woman and all men lay in awe of her, even her husband. When she discovers that she can bear no children she decides that if she can't have an heir then neither can her husband and she uses her one handed servant to track down and kill the illegitimate son that George sired before they had met.This is a dark and twisting tale that explores just how deep greed and lust can go. Violence ensues.Great book, but not a light read.