eBook review copy; 272 pages
The Risen by Ron Rash is a highly recommended novel about a damaged man, his successful brother, and events that happened in 1969.
Bill and Eugene are brothers. The young men and their mother live in a small North Carolina town with their tyrannical grandfather, the town doctor. Their grandfather rules all of them, and the town to some extent, with threats and an iron hand. Their grandfather has his eyes set on Bill becoming a doctor and Bill is pursuing that goal. Eugene, though, is viewed as more worthless due to his artistic sensibilities and writing, which are subversively encouraged by their mother.
In the summer of 1969 Eugene, 16, and his older brother, Bill, 20, are fishing when Eugene sees Ligeia skinny dipping. Ligeia, 17, has been sent to her uncle's house by her parents in Daytona Beach in an effort to discourage her activities with the counterculture movement and drugs. Eugene falls for the free-spirited rebellious young woman and is also introduced to alcohol, drugs, and sex at this time, while distancing himself from his more dutiful brother. He also continues to steal sample packets of drugs from his grandfather's practice for Ligeia.
Forty-six years later, Eugene is a washed-up alcoholic who has lost everything and is slowly drinking himself to death. He nearly killed his daughter while driving drunk. She is estranged from him and his wife is gone. He is shocked to see that a body discovered has been discovered to be Ligeia. Bill had told Eugene that he had put her on a bus in 1969. Obviously something else happened and Eugene is determined to discover exactly what happened to her and the part Bill played in it.
Excellent prose highlights this novel along with exceptional character development. Rash sets the time and place with expertise and captures the age-old sibling rivalry between the brothers. It is also a poignant moment when 16 year-old Eugene is first introduced to alcohol by his brother at Ligeia's suggestion, and immediately enjoys it, portending his future alcoholism. For those who are familiar with the novel, there are recurring references to Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel.
Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.