Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Above the Waterfall.
Rash’s Appalachian novels are not only rich in geography but infused with the poetic vision of an author who consistently captures the many faces of human nature. One is apt to meet unique and eccentric individuals, many memorable. Rash writes of conflicts and harsh truths, reality set against the stark beauty of a landscape that lends itself to rapt descriptions of both nature’s beauty and intransigence. Above the Waterfall is no exception,
its protagonists Les, a sheriff about to retire and counting the days, and Becky, a park ranger burdened by a haunting childhood trauma and a series of unfortunate choices.
When seventy-five-year-old Gerald Blackwelder is accused of poisoning the trout in a resort owned by Harold Tucker, Les is forced to arrest the old man over Becky’s strenuous disagreement over his guilt. The evidence appears irrefutable. It is a difficult situation, the elderly suspect adamant that he would never harm the trout, wanting only to watch them from the vantage of the waterfall--unfortunately on resort property, which is posted with bold warnings against trespassing. Tucker is intractable, fearing the loss of business in an already economically depressed climate.
Les is wary of making a snap judgment and concerned about damaging his evolving friendship with Becky, a kindred soul. Aware of the emotional damage that has so affected Becky’s life, he imagines a deeper relationship might be possible. Content at this point to support her efforts to protect the park and heal a lifetime of wounds, her absolute belief in Gerald’s innocence causes Les to examine other prospective suspects and their motives. Aside from the old man’s arrest, there’s no shortage of problems in the area--especially around Misty Creek Valley, a haven for meth manufacturers in a lucrative drug market, the damage pervasive and progressively disheartening.
The chapters alternate between Les and Becky, his more pragmatic--a sheriff charged with following protocol, at least for the next few days--hers more inclined to descriptions of the beauty around her, nature’s effusive bounty, or ruminations on the tragedy that has so altered her future and the foolish decisions that have precipitated a distrust of her own instincts. The old man’s arrest is another such situation, Becky refusing to believe that she is mistaken about his guilt. If she has doubts, they remain unspoken. For his part, the old man is caught up in an unexpected drama that taxes an already weary heart, his simple existence upended by an unfathomable act of destruction.
Much of the drama of Rash’s work is born of characters in conflict with each other or nature, some more memorable than others. Conversant with the many faces of the human condition, the juxtaposition of man and nature, beauty and reality, Rash speaks in unflinching language of the people and place of his inspiration.