Burning Bright by Ron Rash was the most surprising reads for me for the year 2011. Short story collections have always held that special place in my heart and always will. Ron Rash’s stories and novels have been compared to Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy and Faulkner, which I am not at all surprised after reading the collection. He most certainly deserves praise and more.
Burning Bright is a marvellous collection of twelve stories that focus on the people of Appalachia who though go through a lot of hardships and troubles refuse to give up their pride and yet keep seeking happiness. The stories are dark and rural in nature and yet at the core of the darkness is the human spark that carries itself on regardless.
My favourite stories in this collection are, “The Ascent” – a story of a young boy who discovers two dead bodies frozen in the wreckage of a small aircraft in the Great Smokies. What happens afterward is the proverbial twist in the tale. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading, “Dead Confederates” – a story of what happens when a greedy fellow schemes with a desperate soul. “Burning Bright” on the other hand is all about love beyond any logic and beyond the right and the wrong.
The characters in themselves are not afraid of pain they might endure or a discovery if made will have its own share of consequences. Ron also ensures that some of the stories have that wry sense of humour attached to them, which is necessary when dank tales are told. The language is on the spot and almost every reader will fall in love with it. Here is one of my favourites:
“He imagined towns where hungry men hung on boxcars looking for work that couldn’t be found, shacks where families lived who didn’t even have one swaybacked milk cow. He imagined cities where blood stained the sidewalks beneath buildings tall as ridges. He tried to imagine a place worse than where he was.
For me Burning Bright was a revelation to a writer whose works I will read more of in the future. Ron Rash breathes humanity in every word. He makes words dance on the pages and the reader is left gasping for more amidst meth addicts, sheriffs and lost souls who have a long way to go. Read the stories for the sheer magic of Ron’s writing and be mesmerized by it.