|This is the movie edition cover of Ron Rash’s
novel, The World Made Straight. 
Book Review by:
|This scene shows some of the county where the
Shelton Laurel Massacre occurred (N.C.). 
|An alternate cover for
Ron Rash’s book, The
World Made Straight.
|Bear traps have been used from time to
time as deterrents against men going
onto private property. Such traps have
been used to guard gold diggings and
marijuana farms. 
|From the movie, The World Made Straight, this photo is
of Leonard Shuler’s girlfriend, Dena. 
WHAT I THINK ABOUT THIS BOOK:
First, MY FAVORITE QUOTE:
Travis ate his cereal as Leonard listened to “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” the choral voices tentative as though afraid to speak this truth–God come to the world as a child. These uncertain voices were the direct opposite of the bombast at the symphony’s conclusion. That was the wonder of it, Leonard knew, the balance of the thing, everything countered, not just balanced but reconciled as the tenor voices resonated below the ethereal sopranos. Even the words proclaimed an order, the crookedness of the world made straight. It was, Leonard recognized, such a magnificent order as to demand devotion, the same kind of devotion his mother had shown as she embraced the world from her porch steps. [p. 158-9]
|This is the passage that Handal used in his
magnificent, Messiah, for the lyrics. 
In this passage we find the title of Ron Rash’s book, The World Made Straight. The passage embodies the whole of the book, the deep roots, the bedrock of the story: The crookedness of the world made straight.
The words of Handel’s, Messiah, say, what inspired the name of the book: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.” 
The location of Shelton Laurel is of a deep valley and tall, nearly impenetrable, mountains. It is easy to see how Ron Rash sought this location for his book.
|From this point on spoilers may be present.
If you don’t want to know more, don’t read
WHAT ELSE I THINK ABOUT THE BOOK:
|Leonard had the numerous journals
of his ancestor, Dr. Joshua Candler,
as the Dr. had written before,
and during the Civil War. 
Author Ron Rash tells us that Leonard, quite naturally would have perused and studied his ancestor’s journals learning about all the people his well-known ancestor treated. None, however, was more gripping to him than David Shelton. Having Travis come into his trailer, fascinated about the Civil War, and learning about the Shelton Massacre, it would be all Leonard could do to prevent Travis from learning about his secret. At first we wonder why Leonard is helping Travis and then we learn that in some small way Leonard was trying to help make up for his ancestor’s failings by helping Travis pass his GED test. Because Travis was so interested, he even took Travis out to the massacre site. Ironically, Travis, using a metal detector found David Shelton’s eyeglasses.
In the book the author has the two men discuss how time does not flow, but instead is layered one layer upon the other, so all moments in the past are also happening in the present (you just have to peel the layers back.). This is a wonderful technique the author uses to tie the past (Civil War era) with the present; it brings a bit of surrealism into the story, and we even get to hear scary, mysterious, and metaphysical stories of the local people. For example, Travis has a strange experience when he wears the eyeglasses–he talks to David Shelton’s “ghost” or spirit about the beauty of the speckled trout in the stream. So it is that much is made of ghosts in the book and of reality or seeming reality.
There is more surrealism when Travis muses about the past and how his finding arrowheads seemed more real to him because of the layering of time. Although the author doesn’t say it, it is almost as if Travis Shelton (ancestor of the Sheltons) and David are one! Also, it is as if Leonard and his ancestor, Dr. Joshua Candler, are one and the same, just in a different layer of time. We’ll see this concept later in the book, as well.
|Bestselling author, Ron Rash,
author of The Cove, and Serena,
has won the Frank O’Connor
International Short Story Award,
and the O.Henry Prize, twice.
He teaches at Western
Carolina University. 
It is later in the book, then, when Leonard sends Travis to ferret Dena to the bus station so she can escape to her sister’s home, and also to get David out of the way, that we see his plan. Leonard takes Toomey’s hand and pulls down so the steering wheel turns and plummets the truck over the edge of the cliff to crash. Both Toomeys are killed. We see now, that Leonard did not stand idly by as the Toomy’s would have laid waste to Dena and David Shelton’s replacement, Travis. Leonard did the courageous thing, but it cost him his life. How elegant the author, Ron Rash ties everything together this way.
Leonard’s last thoughts, too embody another of the author’s themes in the book, BEAUTY (beauty, as a theme is seen throughout the book). Leonard’s last thoughts have his body flow down the river, out the Mississippi to the ocean, then across the ocean to the beach where his little “Emily” waited.
|To see a world in a grain of sand, and
heaven in a wildflower; hold infinity in
the palm of your hand, and eternity in
an hour. Leonard wanted to show his
daughter, Emily, the world of beauty
in a single drop of water. 
Leonard wanted to show his daughter the “fern that held a bead of water,” when he would “cup his hand to the plant and show her more than he could ever tell her, a pearl of rain held in his open palm.” WOW! BEAUTIFUL! See how beautifully the author writes of Leonard’s death? “To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower…hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour” [William Blake (bold emphasis added)]. Leonard has all of infinity in that moment, a whole life, embodying all beauty by simply cupping in his hand that single drop of water!
I have so much I’d like to say about Ron Rash’s book. Too much, probably. So…what I’ll do is distill my considerations down to bullets (mostly), for you to think about.
- Conflict Resolution: We have Carlton Toomey and trespassers (notably, Travis) exacting “retribution” with his “pound of flesh” (Cutting Travis’s leg);
- Travis v. his father: Travis “insulted” his father, the father hit Travis, Travis left home (kinda sounds like the war between the states, doesn’t it: states demanding their rights, then seceded from the union–i.e. left home);
- Travis v. Lori Triplet: Well, Travis didn’t like being told what to do. He never talked to Lori about it, he just dropped her off at her house and threw the “slave chain” necklace back at her house (location 2553);
- Dena had a “slave chain,” too, on her wrist (from the carnival); the way she resolved her issues of having an unhappy life was to drink, do drugs, sleep around, (and hurt Leonard);
- Leonard v. Kera (his wife–daughter Emily): Differences were not amicably done, no forgiveness; Kera ended up divorcing Leonard to solve her differences with him;
- Smaller instances of conflict resolution throughout the book (here’s one): When Travis and his friend Shank first came to see Leonard about buying the marijuana, and to have a beer, Leonard then told them they had “overstayed their welcome,” and asked them to leave due to their behavior;
- The Civil War was an armed conflict to resolve the issues of states rights (and slavery);
- Of course, the Shelton Laurel Massacre, conflict resolution, basically vengeance for supposed crimes by the Union against officer’s families, etc.–somebody had to pay–Old Testament justice (an eye-for-an-eye) exacted; and,
- Mrs. Ponder (at the Vocational Center/previously a teacher); marriage and then divorce as a conflict resolution with Mr. Ponder; also, she had sorrows and upsets at the high school, her resolution was to quit the high school and begin working at the Vocational Center;
MY RATING: Given all the above information, reasons, and facts about this book, The World Made Straight, I award this book 4.5 stars out of 5. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any adult. I will be reading Ron Rash’s, Serena, soon. I hope that book is as good as this one.
Until next time…
…many happy pages of reading!
All my love,
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