, , , , , , , , ,


by Ron Rash

genre: historical fiction

Synopsis from Goodreads

serenaThe year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan 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 man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered 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 reckoning.

Rash’s masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.


This award winning novel just didn’t do it for me. I’ve been reading it on and off since June, finishing a handful of novels in between. I found myself having to rewind the audio book because I spaced out or I forgot what was going on when I picked it back up. I must have listened to one passage five times. Like The Maze RunnerI started reading it because it was on a list of 35 books to read before they become 2014 movies. Jennifer Lawrence staring as the lead villain certainly sparked my interest.

It was a slow build-up. I used to think I enjoyed books that just followed the characters through their normal lives, but when the summary talks about a woman wanting to kill her husband’s child, I expect that to happen within the first 50% of the book at the latest.

The ending was an interesting mix of “I saw that coming,” and “wow, didn’t see that coming.” It wasn’t believable, which I would prefer from historical fiction, but interesting nonetheless and for all I know, it could happen.

3 out of 5 stars.

You might like Serena if:

  • You like strong female characters.
  • That “wow, that escalated quickly” moment at the end of a novel makes up for a slow beginning.
  • You enjoy historical fiction set in the wild west.

-Eliabeth Hawthorne

To see what other books we’ve reviewed, check out our book reviews page.