NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY. By Ron Rash. Ecco. 239 pages. $24.99. E-book $11.99.
The only problem with Ron Rash’s collection of 14 short stories: Every writer in regional academic Southern lit circles injects a dose of mountain morality, it seems.
All the plot twists and character flaws imaginable have been exploited. Finding that nugget to make a story shine is like panning for gold in the Uwharrie Mountains: all played out.
Rash, a Boiling Springs, N.C., native and Western Carolina University professor, is one of the hot authors in college bookstores.
He made his rep with novels such as “Serena,” a tale of the North Carolina Appalachians with language as much literary as authentic.
He twists his stories in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” with those tried-and-true coils of biblical fundamentalism, hard-as-stone mountain mores and socioeconomic realities.
Rash switches back and forth from a modern-day meth addict to a post-Civil War preacher who must end an old war feud. More than a few of the tales shine, and the yin-yang of winners and losers plays a little differently each time.
“Cherokee,” the story of a couple’s attempt to save their behind-payments truck at the mountain casino resort, brings a sad smile.
“Where the Map Ends,” about slaves trying to escape over the mountains, peels back prejudices.
Rash doesn’t do any genre-shaking here, but he does give it a few good rattles.
Reviewer Bo Petersen is an environmental reporter at The Post and Courier.