• By Don Dwiggins
  • Posted Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Q & A About This Year's On the Same Page Selection

Q. What is this year’s featured title and who is the author?

A. This upcoming fall, On the Same Page is going to feature the bestselling novel Serena, by Ron Rash. We’re all very excited about it.

Q. What is the book about?

A. It takes place in North Carolina during the Great Depression. Newlywed couple George and Serena Pemberton move down from Boston to the mountains near Waynesville to oversee George’s timber company. The men of the logging crews expect Serena will be some kind of dainty society lady, but they’re soon disabused of the notion. She’s just as capable as any of the workers and just as cutthroat as her husband. She’s willing to do anything, intimidate their business partners, level entire forests, even shed blood, to expand their empire. It is an epic, masterfully-written tale, that manages to be simultaneously beautiful and brutal. It’s packed with great characters, some plucked straight out of history, and it’s very suspenseful too.

Q. Give a brief overview of On the Same Page.

A. Now in its 13th year, “On the Same Page seeks to broaden appreciation of the written word through the shared experience of reading and discussing a single work of literature.” The OTSP committee chooses a book, usually a beloved classic like To Kill a Mockingbird or Ender’s Game. We purchase additional copies of the book to supplement our collection and we encourage as many patrons as we can to read it. Then we host a series of events at Central and all of the branches building off of the book and its theme, like book discussions, film screenings, storytimes, arts & crafts projects, lectures, and author visits. Just about everybody who works at the library participates in some way.

Q. From a community standpoint, what are the objectives of OTSP?

A. We try to pick titles for OTSP that deal with an important issue the community can unite around. For instance, last fall when we featured The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner, our key issue was homelessness. We partnered with organizations in the area that provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness and worked together with them to create programs that would raise awareness and hopefully inspire people to get involved, to join that worthy cause. That’s the main objective really. To get people involved. Whether or not they get a chance to read the book, we want to establish a sense of pride in the community of Forsyth County and to engage folks from all walks of life in a concerted effort to make it stronger.

Q. Why was Serena selected for OTSP 2014?

A. For the last couple of years, the OTSP committee has been hoping to do a book with an environmental theme. We considered works by authors like Carl Hiaasen and Barbara Kingsolver, but in the end, we felt that Rash’s Serena was the best fit. One of the central conflicts of the story is between the Pembertons’ logging concern that wants to plunder the land of its resources and leave it barren and a group of environmentalists who hope to found the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and preserve the wilderness in its pristine state. Horace Kephart, a travel writer/librarian/real-life proponent of the national park, plays a role in the struggle. The novel carries with it a passionate case to safeguard North Carolina’s natural beauty.

Q. Tell us about Ron Rash, his background, his career, and other books he’s written.

A. Ron Rash was born in Chester, South Carolina in 1953. His parents took him and his siblings to the library often and ingrained a deep love for reading in him at an early age. He grew up reading classics by Dostoyevsky and Hardy. Now he works as the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University. In addition to Serena, Mr. Rash has written four other critically-acclaimed novels (One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, The World Made Straight, and The Cove), three books of poetry, and four collections of short stories. He has won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the O. Henry Prize twice over, and he was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. I’m thrilled to get a chance to meet him.

Q. What are the dates for OTSP 2014?

A. On the Same Page is going to last about two weeks this year. We are kicking things off at the Cobblestone Farmers Market in Old Salem on the morning of Saturday, September 27, from 9:00 am to noon. Then, after a bunch of events ranged all over the county, Mr. Rash will appear at our finale at the Arts Council Theatre on Sunday, October 12 at 4:00 pm.

Q. How many copies of the book does the library have available for check out?

A. Including the ones we have access to as a member of the NC Cardinal consortium, there are 150 copies of Serena available to check out, 11 in Large Print. That may sound like a lot, but I would still suggest that folks secure their copy now. Once buzz about the film adaptation starts to build up, it’s going to be a lot harder to get your hands on the book.

Q. Are there digital copies and/or audio copies available as well?

A. We have access to 6 digital copies of Serena and 13 of the audiobook version. The audiobook, by the way, is narrated by Phil Gigante and it comes highly recommended by Tom Wells, another librarian in my department and something of an audiobook aficionado.

Q. What are some of the programs you have lined up for this year?

A. There are going to be group book discussions of Serena that anyone is welcome to join. Tom and I are leading the Books for Dudes one. (Dudes Assemble!!!) On Wednesday, October 1, there’s going to be a Fall Fest with a tree-planting ceremony at the Malloy/Jordan East Winston Heritage Center that will be a lot of fun. We’re going to host an On the Same Planet environmental film series at a/perture cinema on the weekend of October 4-5. And those are just off the top of my head! More details about OTSP programs are forthcoming, so keep an eye on the library website for updates.

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