Central character: The key characters taking the center stage are the sheriff, Will Alexander, the farmer, Billy Holcombe, his wife, Amy, their son Isaac and the sheriff’s deputy, Bobby Murphree. Each character related the story as how they viewed it.
Other characters: Other characters in the story are Widow Glendower, a woman who lives by herself in a remote area, Holland Winchester, the murder victim, and his mother.
Setting: Ron Rash set the story in the 1950s, just after the Korean War, in the Jocassee Valley in the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina. The place is rural and author’s rich description of the place revealed that he was a native of Appalachia. With these lush descriptions, Ron Rash brings the reader to his own rural town.
Narrator: There is more than one narrator in this story. The narrators are the same as the main characters. These characters, who take the center stage, tell the story of the murder in their own views, but each of them reveals more about it and therefore the plot progresses as the narrator switches from one to another.
Events in summary: The story begins with the local sheriff, Will Alexander, as the narrator. The story opens with the return of Holland Winchester to his home town in South Carolina after the Korean War. The story of the murder begins when Holland Winchester suddenly disappeared. His mother knew he was murdered because she heard “gun shots” however, his body was missing and Will Alexander could not find any evidence that the murder took place.
The author switches the narration to Amy Holcombe, the main suspect’s wife. Amy longed to have a child therefore she consulted the witch Widow Glendower when her husband could not impregnate her. The witch told her to “lay down with a man who can” give her a child and she pointed out Holland Winchester. Amy therefore had an affair with Holland. However, when she already conceived, she did not fulfill her promise to Widow fearing that the witch might hurt her son. Billy, the suspect, interpreted the events in his own perspective also. Things got even harder for him when he discovered his wife’s mistake. This even pushed him to kill Holland. He also related his own struggles as a father and a husband. Their son, Isaac Holcombe, also revealed his own struggle of living in a community where everything, including his identity, is concealed. He discovered afterwards that his real father was Holland. In the near end of the story, the power company forced everyone to leave the valley as they flooded it. It was the sheriff’s deputy who wrapped up the story and revealed all the missing connections within the story.
Tone: The tone of the novel is descriptive. Ron Rash richly and sophisticatedly described the setting, the characters and the events.
Style: Ron Rash adapted a Rashomon style of a story where the same event in the story is told by different characters.
Metaphor: Ron Rash used Eden in the title to refer to the situation of man when he was still in Eden.
Theme: Sin causes loss and destruction.
Symbols: The symbol of the water represents various ideas including life, fear and reprimand.
Evaluation: Man’s selfish desire leads him to sin, loss and destruction.