This book starts off very slowly. It took me a while to become invested in the characters. Once I did, I flew through the pages. In the prologue, which takes place in 1957, something is found during a final walk-through before the government floods the cove to become a lake, which informs the reader something bad happened here.
The story of what happened then unfolds. It takes place in a small town in Madison County, North Carolina at the tail end of WWI. Author Ron Rash does an incredible job of building tension. At first the story is slow-paced describing day-to-day life in the cove and nearby town Mars Hill. As I got to know protag Laurel Shelton, I couldn't help trying to figure out what happened to whom. This was a little bit fun, but mostly unnerving. "Please don't let it be..." ran through my mind. (Sorry so vague but don't want to spoil anything)
Rash's ability to draw the reader into this time and place was incredible. When Hank and Walter are digging the new well, I got claustrophobic along with Walter. Plus my other worry Part of me just wanted it to be over so I could start breathing again.
When Rash finally does get it over with, I was spent. Just spent. About halfway through, it suddenly hit me that there would be no happy ending, no matter how hard I tried to ignore the details Rash was laying out. I wanted to quit then and there but couldn't stand that option either. Definitely worth it.
3.5 stars because of the slow start.
P.S. I wonder if the lake is cursed, like the cove.