My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I probably wouldn’t have read Serena if it wasn’t being adapted into a movie with Jennifer Lawrence in it. The hint at a murder mystery appealed to me, but the whole logging conflict aspect of it? That wasn’t my favorite subject in my history classes – and having taken a Pacific Northwest history class, that subject came up a lot. If I’m being completely honest, the only thing that kept me reading was Rachel’s story, because the rest of the characters just rubbed me the wrong way.
First, we have Pemberton, one of the leaders of the logging camp. I didn’t feel like we ever got anything substantial in terms of characterization for him. Everything he thought or did in the book was in relation to Serena, and I can’t think of how to define him outside of his relationship to Serena. Which, come to think of it, might be the point, but it didn’t make for a very interesting character.
I hated Serena by the end of the book. I started off thinking she could be interesting, but she proves to be manipulative and vengeful, and I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in her. In fact, I wrote in my notes as I was reading that I hoped she would die.
I did really like Rachel, the mother of Pemberton’s illegitimate child. Of the three main characters, her story was the interesting, and I loved watching her grow over the course of the book from a terrified teen mother to a young woman determined to protect her child no matter what. She was an interesting character, and she wasn’t a terrible person. I looked forward to every single one of Rachel’s chapters.
Ultimately, Rachel was what saved the book for me, because the conservation conflict going on throughout the story wasn’t all that interesting to me, and I hated the other two main characters. I got a sort of Steinbeck vibe from this book the entire time I was reading it, so you might have more luck with it than I did if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.