Burning Bright is a short story collection by Ron Rash. All are good and it’s hard to pick any favorites, but the stories that stand out to me are: “Hard Times”–which I first read in a workshop, “Back of Beyond,” “The Ascent,” which I first read in The Best American Short Stories, I think it was the 2010 edition, and “Lincolnites.”
In “Hard Times,” eggs go missing out of Jacob and Edna’s hen house. Jacob sets a trap to catch the snake he’s sure is stealing his eggs, but has a difficult choice when the thief turns out to be something entirely different. This short story deals with poverty, starvation, and pride and the effects they have on people.
“Back of Beyond” deals with a pawn shop owner and the steps he takes to save his brother and sister-in-law from the ravages of methamphetamines. While Parson, his brother Ray, or his sister-in-law Martha don’t do drugs, Danny, Parson’s nephew and Ray’s son does, and it has devastating results for his parents. Parson is forced to make hard choices in a life that offers no easy ones.
“The Ascent” is probably the most heart-breaking of all the stories in the collection. This story is told from the point of view of Jared, a fifth-grader in the local school and son of meth addicts. He finds a plane wreck in the Smoky Mountains and adopts the dead couple for his own parents. He’s trying to cope with his life in the only way he knows how, since the adults in his school or the sheriff, who is well-aware of his parents’ drug abuse, never step in to help.
“Lincolnites” goes back in time to the Civil War and is the story of a pregnant wife, whose husband is off fighting for the Union, even though they live in the South–which is why her husband is dubbed a “Lincolnite.” When a lone Confederate soldier shows up on her farm, she does what she must to protect her family. The Civil War is fought even on an isolated mountaintop in the Carolinas.
All the stories in this collection are strong, and well-worth reading.