The Cove by author and professor Ron Rash reads like a dark dream. We don't want to make up from it, yet its dangerous beauty will long linger in our minds. I had always been told that North Carolina was "different" with regards to the people, the "feeling", even the attitude. The Cove is proof of that Otherworldy strangeness in that state. The story is thus: it's the height of World War I and the world is gripped by fear. Even small town Mars Hill, North Carolina feels the shock waves of the war. However, they are also concerned about Laurel Shelton, the lonely and beautiful woman who lives in the Cove, a place that few visit. The townspeople fear her because they think her to be a witch, yet she is a harmless woman with a rather large birthmark and an affinity for herbal folk cures. Her brother, Hank, has returned from the war minus one hand, yet it does not slow him down as he assists in repairing their house and farmlands. However, one day, Laurel hears strange music by the river and discovers a young man with a silver flute. He plays with a gift that is beyond normal and Laurel is drawn to it and soon later, the man himself. Soon, the man who can not speak becomes a fixture at the house, giving Laurel moments of happiness, yet it comes with a price. The townsfolk are searching for Germans or "Huns" and their supporters, considering them to be the enemy of the United States of America. And soon, they will find their way to the Cove to sate their lust for blood and revenge.
I absolutely loved this tragic novel and the characters who were resigned to their fate. Rash guides you by the hand back in time and delivers a story that is both powerful and mesmerizing. As I neared the end, I didn't want to leave the young "witch" and her mute friend to the limited mindset of Mars Hill. Both were more than the town yet circumstances prevented such obvious conclusions and gives the reader instead what could only be their fate. Laurel reminded me of my friends who are very much in tune with Nature and it's a beautiful thing. They live according to the "rules" of Nature and do more than just exist. Although very few people would even speak with Laurel, she lived her life in her own way and would play up the "evil witch" part if someone thought they could get the upper hand on her. Yet, when she meets Walter the mute, she realizes that even she can experience love and true kindness.
I will admit that I loved reading about the food that Laurel cooked - from pumpkin pie to blackberry pie, to cornbread with blackberry jam, to snap beans. She claimed the kitchen as her own and spread her magick to even there. I would have enjoyed eating her warm cornbread with blackberry jam, plus a cup of homemade muscadine wine as we sit on the steps, while listening to a mute man play his silver flute.
Welcome to the magick of North Carolina.