It’s 1918, and the United States is knee-deep in the First World War. Everyone feels the effects, even in a place as far away from Europe as Mars Hill, North Carolina. Food and good hired help are scarce, and local boys are dieing in the killing fields across the sea. Those who don’t come home in a box return maimed or shocked, like Hank Shelton. Missing his right hand, Hank learns to perform the same tasks as a man with two hands and does a good job running the farm where he and his sister Laurel live in the Cove. He even plans on marrying pretty Carolyn Weatherbee. But the Cove is cursed, and while Hank Shelton might be a war hero and an all-American boy, the good people of Mars Hill are inclined to believe that Laurel, with her large purple birthmark, is a witch.
Laurel is used to this kind of talk. Tormented as a child and blamed for all manner of ill things, she has learned to keep her peace when she can and fight back when she can’t. But it’s a lonely existence, and she looks forward to Hank’s marriage and having Carolyn as a sister. Then one day, she finds a stranger in the Cove: a young, mute vagabond stung by yellow jackets to the point of death. Despite Hank’s suspicions, Laurel nurses the man, whose name is Walter, back to health and he soon becomes an indispensable helper on the farm. Even better, Walter plays the small silver flute he carries with him with surpassing skill and beauty. Laurel is surprised to discover, one day, that she is in love with Walter– and he returns her feelings. The outcast witch of the Cove is happier than she ever dared hope.
But Walter carries a dark secret, and as hatred and anger at the war build in Mars Hill, the young couple’s romance–and possibly their lives–might end in tragedy. A beautifully written tale of love and loss, Rash examines the superstition and intolerance of a very different time, leaving the reader with a poignant message that is nevertheless relevant today.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.