One Foot in Eden

Ron Rash

One Foot in Eden
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One Foot in Eden

Ron Rash

The year is 1951 and Holland Winchester, the local thug and a war veteran, has gone missing from his small, backwater South Carolina town. The local sheriff, Will Alexander, has a gut feeling Holland’s been murdered but the sheriff can find neither the body nor the killer. He has his suspects but no evidence. And his suspects have their stories, their motives and their truths. But secrets can only stay buried so long. Told from the perspective of the sheriff, a local farmer, his wife, their son and the sheriff’s deputy, One Foot in Eden explores the crime, shifting suspicion, blame and guilt with each new voice. This brilliant southern gothic novel observes the consequences of love and murder across generations.


You might hear this book described as a simple murder mystery – and for the first chapter, you’d be right. However, to the people involved, there’s nothing simple about this murder. Ron Rash tells the story of Holland Winchester, a small-town local layabout just returned from the Korean War. When he disappears, his mother casts suspicion on their neighbours, Billy and Amy Holcombe, insisting that Holland had been sleeping with the wife. But without body, the sheriff can’t charge anyone with murder.

Told from five points of view – the sheriff and his bloodhound attitude, the wife with her guilty secret, the husband and his pride, the son and his yearning and finally the deputy and his ignorance – Rash builds a complete community, bound together by more than just the land and the times. Each chapter opens another leaf of the mystery, and humanises each character, not allowing their thoughts to be held back in any way, but allowing us to see them as they perceive themselves and the world around them.

Rash gives us a snapshot into what it feels like to be forgotten in the world, or left by the sidelines. Set in a landscape full of ‘dog days’, drought, pain and farming, in the uncertain times of the 1950s, the prose meanders just like the country roads it describes, with every harsh aspect given its rightful place. Nods to the past and future allow this world to cover more than a moment in time, and remind us that some things never change: crime, punishment, sadness and the things we do for those we love.

Kate Rockstrom is from Readings Carlton

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