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One Foot in Eden



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About The Author

Ron RashRon Rash

Ron Rash currently lives in Clemson, South Carolina. He is the author of several collections of short fiction and poetry, and has had his work featured in The Yale Review, The Oxford American, and elsewhere. This is his first novel. Henry Holt will publish his second in... More

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Reading Group Gold

Reading Group Guide Questions

1. The challenge for a modern novelist who has characters speaking in dialect is how to give a flavor

for regional speech without having the dialogue be intrusive or, worse, having it reduce characters

to stereotypes or caricatures. Discuss the effectiveness of the dialect in the novel, focusing not only

on vocabulary but also syntax. Also look at the relationship between the social standing of

characters and their manner of speaking.

2. Discuss the interplay between rationality and irrationality. Several characters certainly would be

associated with one or the other, but the traits often mingle (Billy killing Holland but then carefully

reasoning out the hiding of the body.) A primitive urge--the desire to have a child--and

Glendower's dark magic combine to set the tragedy in motion after a doctor scientifically confirms

the sterility. Alexander intuits that something isn't right but also uses logic to unravel the murder.

Isaac seems to have both elements coursing through him, etc.

3. What does it mean to say that this is very much an Old Testament story? Discuss the various links:

names, the title and epigraph, the flood, the harsh retribution and consequences for sin,

dispossession, etc. How do the language and setting combine to create an Old Testament tone?

4. Does One Foot In Eden feel like a historical novel to you? If so, how is this sense of history

evoked? If not, what particulars make it seem timeless or modern? Additionally, how is history of

the place tied into the personal histories of the characters?

5. The setting of the novel seems to be of special importance to this story. Geography and psychology

are inextricably bound. Discuss how the two mirror and reinforce each other and how the novel's

characters attempt to control the landscape even as they are controlled by it.

6. Being that this terrain is located in the American South, particularly in rural Appalachia, in what

ways do the novel or its characters feel “Southern”? Are these people defined by their home, its

history and heritage, or are they something more than the place in which they live?

7. Tragedies – from the Bible to ancient Greek theatre to today – often involve characters who

admirable or sympathetic but who are also capable of horrible deeds. Would you also consider this

to be the case in One Foot In Eden, and if so, which characters would you consider tragic?

8. Why do you think Ron Rash chose to structure the novel as he did, both with the testimonial

chapters and the surprising jump forward in time with the Deputy’s chapter?

9. Is Rash trying to impart something beyond the story itself by choosing to tell it in this fashion?

 

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