The Risen by Ron Rash
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Eugene and his brother Bill meet a girl while swimming in a creek, their lives are drawn into her web of sex and drugs. Eugene falls hard for Ligeia and would do anything for her until she suddenly leaves town. Now, almost fifty years later, a body identified as Ligeia's is found along the same creek. Just what the hell happened to the girl Eugene never got over?
During my Goodreads visit in 2016, they had a massive pile of books for us, free for the taking. I managed to restrain myself, taking only The Impossible Fortress, an Anthony Bourdain book (may he rest in peace) that I regifted to my brother, and this one. I devoured it on a couple sweltering weekend days.
The Risen is the story of the buried secrets of Eugene Matny's past coming back to haunt him, although they'd been subtly haunting him for a few decades. Back in the day, Eugene was hot and heavy for a hippy chick named Ligeia until she vanished from his life. When her body is discovered, he immediately suspects his brother lied to him about taking her to the bus station. What exactly his brother was lying about proved to be quite something.
Rash's writing style sucked me right in, easy yet poignant. The parallel structure of the book, one set in the present day and the other in the mythical age of 1969, kept me interested even in the stretches where not a lot was happening. Knowing the train wreck is coming doesn't mean you'll be able to get off the tracks in time to avoid getting swept up in it. The ending was even better than I was expecting.
And now we've come to the point in the review where I reveal why I only gave The Risen a three. The book felt like it was missing a little something, like the time I forgot to put bay leaves in my beef stew. For the reputation Ron Rash has, this book was kind of a letdown. "Average" would be the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. It was engaging but I'm already forgetting details and I just finished it a few minutes ago.
I think the characters needed to be fleshed out more. Eugene was a drunk. Bill was a med student. Ligeia was a hippy. Eugene and Bill's grandfather was a tyrant. That's pretty much it. The characters were pretty flat to me.
The Risen was a worthwhile read but it probably wasn't the Ron Rash book I should have read if I wanted a new author to follow. Three out of five stars.
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