The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
What I Say:
I was looking forward to Serena big time. I thought it was going to be this really twisted story with a psychopath as it’s main character. Well, I wasn’t wrong on one of the main characters being completely crazy but it wasn’t really twisted to me. Serena is a very calculated woman who knows exactly what she wants and she will attain it by any means necessary. Her precision in executing everything so perfectly hardly make her crazy. She’s just a straight-up terrible person without an ounce of remorse or regret in her body. I’m even convinced that she killed her own family before she was even 18.
Serena is all about extremes. How far will you go do get what you want? How far will you go to save your life? How far will you go to forget the mess that has become your life? Serena goes so far as to kill anyone that gets in her way. Rachel, the mother of Pemberton’s son, moves to the complete opposite end of the country without knowing anyone to protect her life and her son’s life. Pemberton sinks so far into the bottle that he loses control of himself and his senses because he can’t stand the woman he’s married to even though he finds himself completely overcome by her. The men that work a the camp turn their heads at everything they notice the Pemberton’s do and they turn their head away from the destruction of the land all to keep a job.
Serena is about desperation and lust and greed. Serena and Pemberton don’t love each other, they lust for each other. Love doesn’t cause you to do terrible things for your partner. Serena doesn’t care about the earth or where their lumber is going. She only cares about the money that will fill her pockets, same with Pemberton. All of their investors? Their exactly the same. They will turn their heads away from the murders they know are more than accidents because all they want is more money. Any journey for lust or greed is run by desperation. The need to always come out ahead and be the best.
Serena is many things. It’s a novel full of intricate details and lengthy dialogue that you sometimes think is going nowhere. But it really shows the dark side of humanity. I think that’s what makes it so interesting. You cannot possibly think it will take you to the places that it does. How could a grown woman be so threatened by a child, so much so that she tries to have it murdered? Serena may not be the twisted novel I was thinking it would be, but it is definitely a journey through the immense darkness that can exists in a human being.