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Saints at the River: A Novel by Ron Rash - Paperback - July 2005 - from Books of the World (SKU: RWARE0000003239)

Saints at the River: A Novel

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Saints at the River: A Novel

by Ron Rash

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  • near fine
  • paperback
Near Fine
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About This Item

New York: Henry Holt / Picador, July 2005. Trade Paperback. Near Fine. Interior pristine. Spine straight, tight and uncreased. Covers clean and bright with light corner wear. x+237 pages.

When a twelve-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River and her body is trapped in a deep eddy, the people of the small South Carolina town that bears the river's name are thrown into the national spotlight. The girl's parents want to attempt a rescue of the body; environmentalists are convinced the rescue operation will cause permanent damage to the river and set a dangerous precedent. Torn between the two sides is Maggie Glenn, a twenty-eight year-old newspaper photographer who grew up in the town and has been sent to document the incident. Since leaving home almost ten years ago, Maggie has done her best to avoid her father, but now, as the town's conflict opens old wounds, she finds herself revisiting the past she's fought so hard to leave behind. Meanwhile, the reporter who's accompanied her to cover the story turns out to have a painful past of his own, and one that might stand in the way of their romance. A book about the deepest human themes: the love of the land, the hold of the dead on the living, and the need to dive beneath the surface to arrive at a deeper truth.


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On Feb 13 2018, a reader said:
"The fog finally thinned and the sun broke through. When it did we were in a section where stands of poplar trees lined both shores. As the last smudges of fog evaporated, the yellow sun-struck poplar leaves brightened like lamp wicks being turned up. The air felt charged and alive, like when lightning breaks the sky before rain. Thought we were in slow water, the river's pulse seemed to quicken. Everything, including Luke and me, shimmered in a golden light. For the first time in my life I saw the river the way I believed Luke saw it."

Saints at the River is the second novel by American poet, short story writer and novelist, Ron Rash. In late April, twelve-year-old Ruth Kowalsky from Minnesota, on vacation with her family, steps into the Tamassee River in South Carolina, slips over the waterfall and drowns. She is drawn into a hydraulic and sucked under, to be held there until the river sees fit to release her body.

Her parents obviously want to take her home to be buried, but the local Search and Rescue crews are unable to retrieve her. In spring, the Tamassee is a white-water river, making a dive for the body too dangerous, and the river comes under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1978, which precludes usual methods of retrieval like dynamite.

The community is divided: dissatisfied with efforts by the locals (he's referred to them as hillbillies), Herb Kowalsky has brought in businessman touting his temporary dam; the white-water rafting business is concerned their river's reputation will tip from thrilling to dangerous; a land developer sees the opportunity to weaken environmental regulations; loggers, too, resent the district park ranger's power; and the environmentalists (tree-huggers) are determined to see the law upheld.

Photojournalist Maggie Glenn grew up in this town and knows most of the players well. She escaped to Columbia, but her boss has sent her back with Pulitzer nominee, Allen Hemphill to cover the story. Maggie's evocative photograph at the scene sees politicians weighing in to the debate. But Maggie also has issues from her past in Tamassee to deal with ("It was not a convenient memory, because I couldn't frame it neatly into the black-and-white photograph I'd made of my past."), and Allen is not free of baggage, either.

Rash's forte is his characters, and here they contend with grief, guilt, fear, resentment, and the need to forgive. Always, Rash's love for, and connection to, the Appalachia and her people are apparent in every paragraph. "… an October sky widens overhead with not a wisp of gray or white cloud, just blue smoothed out like a quilt tacked on a frame. It's a sky that makes everything beneath it brighter, more clarified…. Poplars and sweet gums hold clutches of gold and purple, but many leaves have already fallen. The thinning foliage makes the river seem wider, as if the banks have been pushed back a few yards on each side."

His descriptive prose is often exquisite: "After death, everything in a house appears slightly transformed – the color of a vase, the length of a bed, the weight of a glass lifted from a cupboard. No matter how many blinds are raised and lamps turned on, the light is dimmer. Shadows that cobweb corners spread and thicken. Clocks tick a little louder, the silence between seconds longer. The house itself feels off-plumb, as though the foundations had been calibrated to the weight and movement of the deceased." This is a moving and powerful read.


Books of the World US (US)
Bookseller Inventory #
Saints at the River: A Novel
Ron Rash
Trade Paperback
Book condition
Used - Near Fine
Quantity available
Henry Holt / Picador
Place of Publication
New York
Date published
July 2005
fiction, contemporary, domestic, romantic, suspense, drowning, search and rescue, fathers and daughters, environmentalists, photographers, women, South Carolina
Bookseller catalogs
Fiction; Mystery, Suspense, Detective, Crime; Domestic and Family Fiction;

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Books of the World

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This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers. member since: 2017
Arlington, Virginia
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About Books of the World

Selling books from around the world. I am not a professional bookseller. Rather, I am finding new homes for the library I have collected over five decades.


Some terminology that may be used in this description includes:

trade paperback
Used to indicate any paperback book that is larger than a mass-market paperback and is often more similar in size to a hardcover...[more]
Used to mean that the binding of a book has not been overly loosened by frequent use.
A book in fine condition exhibits no flaws. A fine condition book closely approaches As New condition, but may lack the...[more]
The outer portion of a book which covers the actual binding. The spine usually faces outward when a book is placed on a shelf....[more]

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