The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
So now that you have an idea of what the book is about I have to add in my two cents. This plot summary makes the book sound way more exciting than I felt it was when I read it. Let me just say this, I did not hate the book. It was decent. You get some action in the very beginning chapter with a knife fight and a murder but the first three quarters of the book is all very quaint and colloquial but it also moves so slowly. You can say it definitely lacks momentum, in my opinion. For the majority of the book I feel like it is all a lot of shop talk and description about the lumber camp and the are of trees that need to be brought down and chopped up.
There is a cast of supporting characters, the men who labor in the lumber camp, that is overwhelming. There were too many of them to keep names straight in my mind and there voices were not distinct in any. It seemed they were all one general collective essence that is simple and not particularly all that interesting. Then, there is the side plot of Serena training an Eagle to hunt snakes, which was completely superfluous to her character and the plot in general. There is some random visit by a European circus or carnival show of some kind. What was the carnival doing at small lumber camp in the middle of nowhere? Only so the author could right a scene about how Serena's eagle fights a Komodo Dragon. This has nothing to do with the plot or character development of any kind. I am by no means an expert so there could very well be some symbolism or deeper meaning behind the eagle. I just don't see it.
The most compelling part of the book was the relationship between Serena and Pemberton.
“A kind of annihilation, was what Serena called their coupling, and though Pemberton would never have thought to describe it that way, he knew her words had named the thing exactly.”
I'd even say Serena was the most dynamic and interesting, which is good since she is the titular character, and that is to be expected. She is smart, ruthless, dangerous, and most likely a sociopath. Her actions alone are what give the last quarter of the book easier to digest in a way. Here is just a glimpse into the cold and calculating way that Serena's mind works. Serena is accustomed to accomplishing her goals and getting what she wants. She doesn't care how it happens, or who she has to step on along the way, as long as the job gets done. If somebody poses a threat or an obstacle of any kind, her solution is to get rid of problem.
“Others can make us vulnerable and the sooner such vulnerabilities are dealt with the better”
I really enjoyed how the book ended and how many of the characters had their true colors displayed as the conflict grew bigger and deeper, specifically Serena. In many well written books there is a point where a character's actions are so horrifying and shocking, you can only describe that person as bat s*!t crazy! And at the same time there is something about that moment that is wonderful to read because it truly does take you by surprise.
I enjoyed the book for the most part but my final thought is this-its no Gone Girl.