The Caretaker: A Novel (Hardcover)
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ONE OF THE NEW YORKER'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • Told against the backdrop of the Korean War as a small Appalachian town sends its sons to battle, The Caretaker by award-winning author Ron Rash ("One of the great American authors at work today" —The New York Times) is a breathtaking love story and a searing examination of the acts we seek to justify in the name of duty, family, honor, and love.
It’s 1951 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Blackburn Gant, his life irrevocably altered by a childhood case of polio, seems condemned to spend his life among the dead as the sole caretaker of a hilltop cemetery. It suits his withdrawn personality, and the inexplicable occurrences that happen from time to time rattle him less than interaction with the living. But when his best and only friend, the kind but impulsive Jacob Hampton, is conscripted to serve overseas, Blackburn is charged with caring for Jacob’s wife, Naomi, as well.
Sixteen-year-old Naomi Clarke is an outcast in Blowing Rock, an outsider, poor and uneducated, who works as a seasonal maid in the town’s most elegant hotel. When Naomi eloped with Jacob a few months after her arrival, the marriage scandalized the community, most of all his wealthy parents who disinherited him. Shunned by the townsfolk for their differences and equally fearful that Jacob may never come home, Blackburn and Naomi grow closer and closer until a shattering development derails numerous lives.
A tender examination of male friendship and rivalry as well as a riveting, page-turning novel of familial devotion, The Caretaker brilliantly depicts the human capacity for delusion and destruction all too often justified as acts of love.
About the Author
RON RASH is the author of the PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestselling novel Serena, in addition to the critically acclaimed novels The Risen, Above the Waterfall, The Cove, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; five collections of poems; and seven collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, Nothing Gold Can Stay, a New York Times bestseller, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Three times the recipient of the O. Henry Prize, his books have been translated into seventeen languages. He teaches at Western Carolina University.
“With each Ron Rash story, you expect flawed people trying desperately to survive against the odds, and a rich sense of place, and images that linger, and beautiful language that you catch yourself reading over and over. What you don’t always expect is a wicked plot. The Caretaker delivers all of the above in a story that becomes a race to the finish.”
“With pulsing drama from the outset, The Caretaker can be hard to put down from one chapter to the next. Rash’s touch depicting the early 1950s in Appalachia also makes turning pages a pleasure. [The Caretaker] is crafted with the closely observed descriptions of Appalachian life that have marked [Rash’s] career. . . Rash has conjured a kind of rough-hewn Americana with his prose. He may be regionally focused in his fiction, but his works tap deep veins of human nature and national strife.”
—The Associated Press
“Potent and rewarding. . . Rash expertly and seamlessly ratchets up the suspense and melodrama. . . The lyrically nuanced prose faithfully evokes the Appalachian landscape, and Rash again showcases an ability to dig beneath the surface of his characters to expose their base desires and intentions. This is exactly the kind of humanitarian storytelling that fans have come to expect and savor from him.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“[A] nimbly plotted, suspenseful romance with a twist—its titular hero is the third wheel…[The] novel's bravura opening [is] a hand-to-hand combat scene that evokes James Dickey's To the White Sea… Rash writes with finesse and affection, as usual, of western North Carolina and its people. But the mood isn't mere nostalgia—there's a flint and an unflinching realism underneath, especially in his portrayal of the stalwart, utterly solid Blackburn Gant, that elevates the novel. Rash's 20th book is among his best.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Tantamount to a Shakespearean tragedy in rhythm, scope and dynamic. . . The Caretaker stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the multiple award-winning books in Ron Rash’s impressive body of work.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Master storyteller Rash (In the Valley, 2020) returns with a tale of friendship, love, and betrayal set in his beloved Appalachia…In lyrical, understated prose, Rash explores themes of devotion, deception, and family ties in this unforgettable story that will appeal to fans of Alice Munro and William Kent Krueger.”
“Ron Rash is one of the South’s most beloved storytellers, and his latest novel doesn’t disappoint. Set in 1950s Blowing Rock, North Carolina, The Caretaker is a heartfelt tale about a love triangle between Jacob, the son of a wealthy family who shuns him when he marries Naomi, an uneducated hotel maid, and his friend Blackburn, the disfigured caretaker of the town cemetery.”
"Splendid in its evocation of time and place. [Rash] is a writer who never sets out to impress but is always impressive. There are novels you enjoy and forget. Ron Rash is one whose books always invite a second reading; they are true to life, to experience and imagination - rich treasure. The Caretaker is one of his best"
—Allan Massie, The Scotsman
"Thrilling . . . In [The Caretaker] the outcast has a heart of gold, teenage love is true love and, like the goods on display at Weaver's Hardware, everything finds its right place"
―Times Literary Supplement
"Hard to put down . . . [Ron Rash] may be regionally focused in his fiction, but his works tap deep veins of human nature and national strife"
"Ron Rash is a vivid chronicler of deprived rural America . . . There is a taut, atmospheric melodrama . . . at the heart of this book"
"If it's a gripping yarn you're after, look no further than this stirring tale of intergenerational deceit set in small-town America during the Korean war"