The World Made Straight
By Ron Rash
Completed March 9, 2012
Ron Rash was recommended to me by a book friend after I vacationed in the Appalachian mountains. I love discovering new authors, especially ones who use their settings as an important part of their storytelling. My friend sent me a copy of The World Made Straight to get me started, and I have to say: I am very intrigued by Rash’s writing.
The World Made Straight focuses on two main characters: Travis, a hothead teenage boy, and Leonard, a former teacher turned drug dealer. As the story unfolds, we read as Travis begins stealing pot plants from a crop he discovers while fishing. He sells the marijuana to Leonard – and for good money – which is why Travis keeps going back to steal more. However, the owner of the marijuana field – the gloriously villainous Carlton Toomey – doesn’t take kindly to thievery, and eventually catches Travis – literally. Travis flees to Leonard to recover from his wounds and to stay away from his father, who beat Travis for his acts of foolishness.
Once living together, Leonard becomes a surrogate father for Travis, encouraging him to get his GED and telling him stories about a Civil War massacre that occurred in the mountains, which involved Travis’s ancestors. The Civil War story piques Travis’s interest in learning again and slowly begins his turnaround – until a fateful night when Travis’s temper gets the best of him again.
The World Made Straight is all about correcting past mistakes – to put things “straight’ again. Sometimes, these acts of redemption were vengeful, others were virtuous. With this theme, Rash creates a page-turning book with simple storytelling. His writing style reminds me of Stewart O’Nan with the atmosphere of Charles Frazier. The characters and setting were spot on; however, I had an issue with the Civil War back story. Living in the American South, I know some wounds run very deep, but the “them vs. us” tone was a little much.
All in all, I enjoyed my first foray into the world of Ron Rash, and I look forward to reading more stories by this Appalachian writer. ( )