New York Times best-selling author Ron Rash demonstrates his superb narrative skills in this suspenseful and evocative tale of two brothers whose lives are altered irrevocably by the events of one long-ago summer - and one bewitching young woman - and the secrets that could destroy their lives.
While swimming in a secluded creek on a hot Sunday in 1969, 16-year-old Eugene and his older brother, Bill, meet the entrancing Ligeia. A sexy, free-spirited redhead from Daytona Beach banished to their small North Carolina town until the fall, Ligeia will not only bewitch the two brothers but lure them into a struggle that reveals the hidden differences in their natures.
Drawn in by her raw sensuality and rebellious attitude, Eugene falls deeper under her spell. Ligeia introduces him to the thrills and pleasures of the counterculture movement, then in its headiest moment. But just as the movement's youthful optimism turns dark elsewhere in the country that summer, so does Eugene and Ligeia's brief romance. Eugene moves further and further away from his brother, the cautious and dutiful Bill, and when Ligeia vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, the growing rift between the two brothers becomes immutable.
Decades later their relationship is still turbulent, and the once close brothers now lead completely different lives. Bill is a gifted and successful surgeon, a paragon of the community, while Eugene, the town reprobate, is a failed writer and determined alcoholic. When a shocking reminder of the past unexpectedly surfaces, Eugene is plunged back into that fateful summer and the girl he cannot forget. The deeper he delves into his memories, the closer he comes to finding the truth. But can Eugene's recollections be trusted? And will the truth set him free and offer salvation...or destroy his damaged life and everyone he loves?
©2016 Ron Rash (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
Rash's Homage to Dostoevsky
The setting here alternates between 1989 and the summer of 1969 in rural appalachian North Carolina. The latter was during the sinful Summer of Love, and brothers Eugene and Bill are on summer break from high school. About a hundred yards downstream from their regular swimmin' hole, a teen siren mesmerizes Eugene, the novel's narrator, avec toute sa splendeur naturelle:
"Her long red hair set off her aqua eyes and unblemished complexion. Close up, she looked younger, close to my age than Bill's. Bright beads circled her neck. Love beads, I knew they were called. Affixed to the beads was a penny-size peace symbol. She raised a hand and tucked her dripping hair behind her ears, exposing a pale crescent of breast. I look away, feeling my face flush."
The narrator Eugene names Ms. Mosely "Ligeia," for a Greek siren, on his promise to so name her if he ever used her for a character in a story. The alluring Ligeia is in town from Daytona Beach, Florida in hopes that her religionist aunt and uncle can save her from her evil ways. Ligeia spends much of her time at the mountain stream swimming hole giving the naive Eugene interactive instructions on sexual intercourse. In exchange he brings her Valium and Quaaludes from his grandfather's medical clinic. This is really risky since grandpa is an evil, narcissistic SOB.
Past summers were spent fishing with a rod and reel, but in the summer of '69, it's kissing with rubbers and reefer. Bill partakes in escapades with Ligeia at first, but becomes skeptical when she continues to ask for prescription drugs and he fears losing his long-time girlfriend. Toward summer's end, Eugene doesn't carry a condom. A few weeks later, Ligeia tells Eugene she's pregnant and it's his baby.
In 1989, Ligeia's body surfaces. By this time, Eugene has grown up to be a divorced, raging alcoholic and sometimes writer, who's estranged from his teen daughter due to an auto accident several years back in which she was injured and his drinking was a factor. Meantime, brother Bill is an esteemed surgeon who subscribes to Christianity Today and, as he'll be glad to tell you, has saved lots of lives and will save many more. What happened to Ligeia?
In spare, but elegant, prose, Rash tells the unsettling and hauntingly beautiful moral tale of wicked domination, innocence lost, remorse and responsibility.
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