... mesmerizing ... takes Serena to such a fever pitch of destruction that in a lesser writer’s hands it might seem overheated. But Rash maintains the deep keel that has always distinguished him and has perhaps led to him being characterized as 'Southern,' a designation he apparently finds dismissive. He shouldn’t; he’s one of the best living American writers, and his laconic understatement is much more powerful than excess. There’s nothing rash about Rash. The way that influenza deaths figure in In the Valley is as terrifying as anything you may find on the subject, even if its crescendo is ... The novella’s minor characters, human and otherwise, are all drawn with exceptional care. That’s also true in the nine other stories in this slim volume, though some are very short.
... a catalog of broken people trying to survive ... The power of Rash’s stories lies in...small moments of connection amid all the noise of rupture and heartbreak. Rash writes with a direct precision that puts the reader at ease. Here is a storyteller who not only knows his characters, but knows all the details around them as well. Rash ends the book with the titular novella ... Rash maintains the novel’s linguistic precision, but the contrast to the even sparer prose of the stories that precede it makes the novella’s increased space and cast of characters feel somewhat unfocused.
Rash profoundly immerses readers in the Appalachia he calls home. His latest collection is highly recommended not only for readers who value protecting our environment but also for anyone who enjoys well-told stories of justice and revenge.
At turns dark, craggy, and heart-wrenching, Rash’s writing is never easy, but it is also lovely, moving, and rich in history and culture, just like the Appalachian region it so beautifully captures. Highly recommended for both those just discovering Rash and for returning readers.
Each [story] is memorable to varying degrees, with some tales featuring [Rash's] best prose yet ... Each of these pieces shares some elements with the others, including Rash’s remarkable prose, which elevates even the simplest story to an epic tale, and the frequent unpredictability of what does or does not occur. One can be almost right in guessing what will happen, but never totally on the mark. Yet another is the sharp and memorable characters Rash creates, each of whom puts one in the mind of a friend, acquaintance or relative. You will find all of this and more within the pages of In The Valley, which is very much worth the wait.
Though Serena has received the lion's share of attention, the short story has always been Rash's best genre ... Rash is expert at revealing the sword of vengeance's double edge—how honed it is, how it cuts whomever wields it ... Sure, now and again Rash tries to channel Cormac McCarthy and fails; a couple stories seem slight; and so on. But those are quibbles, not disfiguring flaws. A brace of strong stories, and the novella's a fine, suspenseful contribution to the thriving genre of Appalachian mayhem.
The 10 stories in Rash’s revelatory collection range from contemporary slices of life to period character studies, and from quiet closet dramas to miniature epics ... In simple but eloquent prose, Rash describes the vulnerabilities, fears, and desires of his characters and shows how often they unite persons from vastly different walks of life and social strata. The skillful craftsmanship of these tales and their subtle but powerful climaxes make for profoundly moving reading.