Before George Pemberton ever meets Serena he is warned to be careful. Instead of heeding the warning, he goes to bed with her the first night and is married within the month. Together, the newlyweds travel to the North Carolina mountains to work on Pemberton’s business to build a timber empire. Serena and George rule the mountains with an iron fist, getting rid of any individual who may stand in their way. Complications arise when it is discovered that Serena cannot bear children. She sets out to murder George’s ex-lover and their son.
It took me awhile to decide how I felt about this book. It’s definitely one of those books that gets better the more you think about. It takes some time to fully digest and realize everything that you read. I think this was the intention of the author because of the way it was written. Plenty of times we get information of events after the fact. A lot of the book is told through discussions between the workers. Major events (such as the death of a character) are told in passing between the workers. I always felt as though I were being told what was happening, rather than being shown. This did result in a disconnect with the characters.
The title character is the catalyst for all the events that happen throughout the book, yet we never really get to know her. We do not learn much about her as a person. We know that she grew up in Colorado. Her family died from an illness but she survived. Then when she meets George Pemberton she is living in Pennsylvania. Those are the only details we are given into her life. We are never given any insight into what drives her ruthless decisions. And they are definitely ruthless. Many people who read this book have been calling her one of the most brutal female characters ever written. I think she is one of the most brutal characters ever written about period, regardless of her gender. She manages to make a man who murders someone within the first few pages and abandons the young girl he got pregnant seem almost kind.
The novel takes place in the late 1920s to early 1930s. Rash does a wonderful job of really capturing this time period. How some men were building empires and becoming insanely rich, while others would camp outside a place for the chance to work for a couple of dollars.
Final Verdict: I gave this book a 3-star rating on Goodreads but it’s really 3 and 1/2 for me.