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Smith reviews Rash

Saturday Review: “And We Are Here, Right Here” a review by Jimmy Dean Smith in NCLR Online Spring 2024 of Ron Rash’s novel The Caretaker (2023)

Rash, no stranger to reviews in NCLR, is this time included in our feature section on “Disability in NC Literature” for many examples: “In fact, auguring tragedy perhaps to come, The Caretaker does deal in multiple troublings. That now almost-forgotten scourge of the 1950s, polio, “the word even the grownups feared to speak” (145), renders parents helpless, murders children, traps them in iron lungs, or, as with Blackburn, makes them easy targets for smalltown bullies and self-doubt. Before Jacob Hampton was born, his sisters died in the Spanish flu pandemic. (The Hamptons’ mania for protecting their last remaining child is understandable.) The presence of disabled young veterans – in 1951, even Great War soldiers are middle-aged – is a reminder that, in a war-racked half-century, personal and family disaster are a draft notice away.”

Rash’s The Caretaker stars a character that fits the name, Blackburn, a man who watches over a graveyard, as well as the wife of a best friend, Jacob, who has gone to fight in Korea. Family and class being what it is, there is grime and the messiness. But Rash makes time for decent people, and their actions, to shine through. Smith writes, “Countering the tropes of smalltown bullies are the book’s quiet heroes: a disabled World War II veteran who helps a war-shattered Jacob along; two smalltown buddies who have grown old together while reading Shakespeare and Keats; a “godly man” who does not doubt the sincerity of Blackburn’s wishes.”

Read the entire review in the Online Spring 2024 issue out now! And order the book from And make sure to subscribe for the 2024 Print issue featuring more work about Rash.