It's 1951 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Blackburn Gant, his life irrevocably altered by a childhood case of polio, seems condemned to spend his life among the dead as the sole caretaker of a hilltop cemetery. It suits his withdrawn personality, and the inexplicable occurrences that happen from time to time rattle him less than interaction with the living. But when his best and only friend, the kind but impulsive Jacob Hampton, is conscripted to serve overseas, Blackburn is charged with caring for Jacob's wife, Naomi, as well. Sixteen-year-old Naomi Clarke is an outcast in Blowing Rock, an outsider, poor and uneducated, who works as a seasonal maid in the town's most elegant hotel. When Naomi eloped with Jacob a few months after her arrival, the marriage scandalized the community, most of all his wealthy parents who disinherited him. Shunned by the townsfolk for their differences and equally fearful that Jacob may never come home, Blackburn and Naomi grow closer and closer until a shattering development derails numerous lives.
Rash maintains narrative momentum as he moves from a war zone overseas to homier territory, namely rural Appalachia, the region that has formed the backdrop for much of his fiction. Conflict of a different kind unfolds and affects Jacob and those closest to him in this stirring, well-crafted tale about young love, family honor and male friendship ... One of Rash's finest novels, impressing on multiple levels. Rash expertly toggles back and forth to reveal key developments at different moments in time ... As ever, the rugged beauty of the landscape is richly conveyed. It ends a tad abruptly, but otherwise this is supremely accomplished storytelling.
The novel is a compelling drama of young lovers beset by parental grief and scheming ... Rash has conjured a kind of rough-hewn Americana with his prose. He may be regionally focused in his fiction, but his works tap deep veins of human nature and national strife.