One Foot in Eden: A Novel

One Foot in Eden: A Novel

by Ron Rash

Paperback(First Edition)

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Will Alexander is the sheriff in a small town in southern Appalachia, and he knows that the local thug Holland Winchester has been murdered. The only thing is the sheriff can find neither the body nor someone to attest to the killing. Simply, almost elementally told through the voices of the sheriff, a local farmer, his beautiful wife, their son, and the sheriff's deputy, One Foot in Eden signals the bellwether arrival of Ron Rash, one the most mature and distinctive voices in Southern literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312423056
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 01/03/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 250,060
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Ron Rash is the author of the prize-winning novels One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River and The World Made Straight, as well as several collections of poetry and short stories. He is the recipient of an O. Henry Prize and the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. For Saints at the River he received the 2004 Weatherford Award for Best Novel and the 2005 SEBA Best Book Award for Fiction. Rash holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University and lives in Clemson, South Carolina.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide Questions

1. The challenge for a modern novelist who has characters speaking in dialect is how to give a flavor for regional speech without having the dialogue be intrusive or, worse, having it reduce characters to stereotypes or caricatures. Discuss the effectiveness of the dialect in the novel, focusing not only on vocabulary but also syntax. Also look at the relationship between the social standing of characters and their manner of speaking.

2. Discuss the interplay between rationality and irrationality. Several characters certainly would be associated with one or the other, but the traits often mingle (Billy killing Holland but then carefully reasoning out the hiding of the body.) A primitive urge—the desire to have a child—and

Glendower's dark magic combine to set the tragedy in motion after a doctor scientifically confirms the sterility. Alexander intuits that something isn't right but also uses logic to unravel the murder.

Isaac seems to have both elements coursing through him, etc.

3. What does it mean to say that this is very much an Old Testament story? Discuss the various links:

names, the title and epigraph, the flood, the harsh retribution and consequences for sin,

dispossession, etc. How do the language and setting combine to create an Old Testament tone?

4. Does One Foot In Eden feel like a historical novel to you? If so, how is this sense of history evoked? If not, what particulars make it seem timeless or modern? Additionally, how is history of the place tied into the personal histories of the characters?

5. The setting of the novel seems to be of special importance to this story. Geography and psychology are inextricably bound. Discuss how the two mirror and reinforce each other and how the novel's characters attempt to control the landscape even as they are controlled by it.

6. Being that this terrain is located in the American South, particularly in rural Appalachia, in what ways do the novel or its characters feel "Southern"? Are these people defined by their home, its history and heritage, or are they something more than the place in which they live?

7. Tragedies – from the Bible to ancient Greek theatre to today – often involve characters who admirable or sympathetic but who are also capable of horrible deeds. Would you also consider this to be the case in One Foot In Eden, and if so, which characters would you consider tragic?

8. Why do you think Ron Rash chose to structure the novel as he did, both with the testimonial chapters and the surprising jump forward in time with the Deputy's chapter?

9. Is Rash trying to impart something beyond the story itself by choosing to tell it in this fashion?

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One Foot in Eden 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago as summer reading for college, but I find myself picking it up over and over. Being from the area from which the story is set, I only managed to find two minor errors in context. The descriptions of the setting are flawless. My father, who remembers before the Jocassee River Valley was flooded, enjoyed it as well. I've given copies to most of my relatives (ages ranging from 15 to 84, male and female) and they've all loved it. If you're not familiar with the setting, then it's still a great rustic mystery, with a touch of Andy Griffith in the mix.
mattchisholm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"I dreamed of water deep as time"-51"But nothing is solid and permanent. Our lives are raised on the shakiest foundations. You don't need to read history books to know that. You only have to know the history of your own life."-56"There in that field with the dirt and dew cold on our skin me and billy clinged and shivered against one another like we was caught in a flood and holding on each other to keep from getting swept away." 74"I watched the flickering yellow flames a long ime, thinking how when you looked at fire it was like looking at moving water, both ever changing and not changing all at the same time." 77-78"We did other things, things I'd never have reckoned to have done with Billing even in the dark. It was like I was opening up more and more to him, showing him everything there was of me, our bodies swirled together like two creeks becoming one." 96"A woman is never more pretty than when she's bathing or so it was when I looked at Amy. A man bathes just to get dirt off him but it seems more to a woman than that. Amy bathed in a slow, easeful way like the soap and water washed away every care the day had laid on her. Then she took the tin and sloshed water over her head and her yellow hair darkened to the color of honey." 116"There's currents that run deep in a woman, too deep for a man to touch their bottom." 118
CloggieDownunder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One Foot in Eden is Ron Rash¿s first novel. The tale is told in five voices; the setting is the Jocassee Valley in the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina in the 1950s. It starts out as a murder mystery, but soon becomes much more. Characters that start out as simple farmers and law enforcement officers develop an unexpected depth. Underneath the main story is the current of people¿s lives and the threat of the dam that will flood the valley.Sherriff Will Alexander believes that local thug and war veteran Holland Winchester has been murdered, but he has no body. He suspects that Billy Holcombe has committed the crime but has no proof. The crime and its aftermath are described successively by Will Alexander, Billy Holcombe¿s wife Amy, Billy, his son Isaac and Deputy Bobby Murphree. The plot twists in unpredictable ways: more than once, the outcome is quite different from what the reader might expect. It is obvious from the rich descriptions and authentic dialogue that Rash is a native Appalachian: his love of the place and the people stands out.This is a tale of murder; of suspicion and superstition; of guilt and of love; of infidelity and jealousy; of choosing a path in life; of fatherhood; of attachment to place and community displacement. Beautifully written, it is a pleasure to read and hard to put down.
bettewhitley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My personal favorite of his novels. I have read it more than once, and lead my book discussion on it.
cataylor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Told in five voices, this novel of southern Appalachia is beautiful and violent and tragic. Holland Winchester is mean and makes enemies easily, but when Amy Holcomb uses him to father the child her husband cannot give her, his death is as ugly as the life he had led. Desperation leads Billy Holcomb to do things he never imagined himself capable of, and a sheriff who has experienced disappointment and loss of innocence in his own life knows there is more to the story than he's been told. Still, without a body there can be no arrest, but that doesn't absolve anyone of paying for the wrongs in their life. Engaging and well written, One Foot in Eden is difficult to put down.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of a select number of books that I regularly recommend to students--even those who aren't big fans of reading. It moves quickly even though it's by no means a thriller or traditional mystery, and at the same time it's literary fiction that isn't really genre work (unless you'd call Southern Literature genre). You get the various perspectives of those main characters involved in the story, and the different voices come together wonderfully to keep you interested and engaged in what you're reading. Everything feels and sounds real, and the writing turns this into a truly touching story. I'd strongly recommend it to any mature reader.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
You are taken back to a different time and place and grow to respect the southern mountains and the people who live in the mountain. The tragic story is told in vivid detail and the characters are long remembered.