Study Guide

Serena Summary

By Ron Rash

Serena Summary

Pemberton is on his way back to North Carolina with his new bride, Serena, when he gets an unwelcome surprise at the train station. It's a baby.

Let's backtrack a little bit, shall we? Back before Pemberton met Serena, he had some fun between the sheets with a woman named Rachel, one of the workers on his timber property. Now Rachel's knocked up and her dad is not a happy camper—he threatens Pemberton at the train station and the two duke it out. It's too bad for Rachel's dad that Pemberton knows how to fight, because before we know it, the guy is dead and Pemberton and Serena are on their merry way.

Over the next few weeks, Serena gets used to her new surroundings. Since it's 1929, everyone expects her to be timid and feminine, but she's nothing like that. She speaks her mind whenever she can, plus she knows how to ride a horse, hunt, and chop down trees. Did we mention that she kills a bear? Yep, she proves herself to be a force to be reckoned with. When she doesn't like Pemberton's business partners, we have a hunch they won't be around long, and sure enough, she promptly gets rid of them both and arranges for her hubby to partner up with a guy named Harris.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Interior pays the Pembertons a visit. He wants to make their land into a national park, but they'll have none of it—they're making too much money chopping down the trees and turning them into furniture and building materials. One day, there's an accident chopping one of the trees and a guy named Galloway gets his hand severed. Ouch. Luckily, Serena is close by and helps stop the bleeding so he doesn't die. He repays her by becoming her loyal servant and doing whatever she wants.

Serena desperately wants to give Pemberton an heir, so when she gets pregnant, she's over the moon. One night, eight months in, she has really bad pains but Dr. Cheney tells her it's nothing to worry about. The next day, though, she heads to the hospital, where she loses the baby and is lucky to survive. The doc tells her she won't have any more children. Serena's really bummed, and Galloway is angry with Cheney for telling her everything would be okay before, so he kills the guy.

It's not too long before Serena figures out that Rachel had a son, and she worries that the little guy, Jacob, will want their land and money one day. This won't do, so she and Galloway head out to kill them both, but get to Rachel's neighbor instead.

The duo decide to hunt down Rachel, but luckily her friend at the camp, Joel, tips off Sheriff McDowell, who gets Rachel and Jacob to safety. When Pemberton learns about this, he's a little surprised. He's torn between his wife and his son, but he decides to send some cold hard cash to his kid. Rachel and her baby are now on the run with Galloway hot on their tails.

Serena has her heart set on going to Brazil to harvest trees there for a while; she's sick of North Carolina and thinks their work is pretty much done there. She convinces Pemberton, lines up investors, and sells the land to the Secretary of the Interior for the national park. Everything is all set. One night, Sheriff McDowell tries to burn the Pembertons' house down with them inside it. He knows they dispose of (read: kill) people who get in their way, and going after Jacob was the last straw.

The Pembertons survive and McDowell is arrested. Serena sends Galloway to kill the guy, and McDowell informs Galloway that Pemberton secretly sent money to Jacob and Rachel. Naturally, Serena is outraged and poisons Pemberton before he can see it coming—she thought they were equals but the guy's clearly gone soft. She packs her bags and heads to Brazil, where she makes a boatload of money in the timber business. Years later, Jacob hunts her down and kills her.