THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT by Ron Rash
Publisher Henry Holt, March 2006
In a rural Appalachian community haunted by the legacy of a Civil War
massacre, a rebellious young man struggles to escape the violence that would
bind him to the past.
Travis Shelton is seventeen the summer he wanders onto a neighbor’s property
in the woods, discovers a crop of marijuana large enough to make him some
serious money, and steps into the jaws of a bear trap. After hours of
passing in and out of consciousness, Travis is discovered by Carlton Toomey,
the wise and vicious farmer who set the trap to protect his plants, and
Travis’s confrontation with the subtle evils within his rural world has
Before long, Travis has moved out of his parents’ home to live with Leonard
Shuler, a one-time schoolteacher who lost his job and custody of his
daughter years ago, when he was framed by a vindictive student. Now Leonard
lives with his dogs and his sometime girlfriend in a run-down trailer
outside town, deals a few drugs and studies journals from the Civil War.
Travis becomes his student, of sorts, and the fate of these two outsiders
becomes increasingly entwined as the community’s terrible past and corrupt
present bear down on each of them from every direction, leading to a violent
reckoning—not only with Toomey, but with the legacy of the Civil War
massacre that, even after a century, continues to divide an Appalachian
Vivid, harrowing yet ultimately hopeful, THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT offers a
powerful exploration of the painful conflict between the bonds of home and
the desire for independence.
Rash writes with beauty and simplicity, understanding his characters with
a poet's eye and heart and telling their tale with a poet's tongue.
-- William Gay, author of Provinces of Night and The Long
"Ron Rash writes so well about real people, people one paycheck short of
extinction, that you care what happens to his characters in every clause. In
The World Made Straight he shows how much trouble a poor ol' boy can get in,
just trying to catch a fish or two. Even in this novel, his words sound like
-- Rick Bragg, author of All Over But the Shoutin' and
"THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT is a wonderful, heartbreaking, heart-healing kind
of work, a work of genius-genius and insight and poetry and the kind of
language that whispers to me like music coming back off dense wet hills and
-- Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard out of Carolina
"This is the third novel by Ron Rash that has brought my life to a
grinding halt but to praise Rash simply as a powerful storyteller would be
to overlook his gifts as a profoundly ethical writer and, at the same time,
a poet with a fine and tender eye for the beauty of nature. What I love and
admire most of all about this book, however, is its fierce confrontation of
a human dilemma that has sparked too many of the world's most violent
tragedies: the burning question of just how much allegiance we owe family
and community, including the ghosts from our past."
-- Julia Glass, author of Three Junes
"Deft, intelligent, crisp, sensual and lyrical, The World Made Straight is
the best work yet by a wonderful writer. This is why we read books: to
encounter a great story told well."
-- Rick Bass, author of The Hermit's Story and In the Loyal