Power, lust, fear, and destruction are all words that could describe the story of Serena by Ron Rash. The novel's namesake, Serena, is an eerily beautiful woman who is obsessed with money and the destruction of both nature and her enemies. She is married to George Pemberton, the owner of a timber company responsible for clearing a large portion of the North Carolina landscape in 1929. One side of the story describes Serena's push to rid the landscape of trees and beasts alike. She captures the minds of every man working for their company as well as her competitors who would like to stop her so that they may create a national park. George becomes a secondary player in the business as Serena's dreams grow and she begins to take matters into her own hands.
The other side of this story revolves around Rachel, the mother of George's illegitimate son. Rachel is alone in the world after her father is murdered yet is strong and resilient as she works hard to provide for Jacob and herself in the kitchen of the timber company. After George kills her father, she never feels the same way about him or his wife. Once Serena sees how George has a soft spot for Jacob, she begins to see Rachel as a threat which in turn makes Rachel's life take on a whole new momentum, hurtling her into unknown territory as she tries to flee for her life.
Rash's novel begins with an interesting scene, yet flat lines until about two-thirds of the way through when the intrigue begins to pick back up. Serena is an evil character that entraps everyone's attention and leaves the reader wondering what she will do next. George is no better although less aggressive and disturbed than his wife. The reader will become attached to Rachel as she overcomes struggles as a young woman raising a child alone in pre-Depression era North Carolina. She is sweet, intelligent, and determined which brings light into this twisted love story. The novel is being made into a film with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which should boost its popularity. It is worth sticking with, as the ending shows the breadth of Serena's power in a shocking twist.