Feb 22, 2014
Review: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash (Kindle Edition)
A few months back I started seeing a lot of buzz about Wiley Cash from my other Southern Lit lovers. Surprisingly, I had not heard of this author until then, so I looked into his work and saw that he had a new book, THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY that hadn't been released yet, but his debut novel, A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME was getting a lot of positive reviews, not to mention, it was the type of book I love to read..
The story takes place in the small North Carolina town of Marshall, in 1986 and is centered around three complex narrators who tell this story of family, faith and betrayal.. First, there's Adelaide, an elderly woman who has seen a lot in her 80-something years who has strong religious beliefs that she isn't afraid to stand up for. Then there's Jess, a nine-year old boy, living with his mother, father and older brother, Stump, who was born mute and has never spoken a word. The last narrator is Clem, the local sheriff, who knows loss first hand yet does his very best to serve the people of Marshall in a fair way, even though he doesn't agree with some of the ways of certain townspeople.
Jess and Stump's mother, Julie, had a very religious upbringing and even though her husband, Ben, didn't share her conviction and dedication to the church, she attended services several times a week. Neither Ben nor the boys ever accompanied her to the her church. But one day after the boys saw something they weren't meant to see, Julie was convinced by a church elder to bring Stump to church with her for a healing. Jess was upset by this but felt he couldn't tell his mother the truth as to why he felt so strongly about it for fear of getting he and his brother in trouble and upsetting his parents.
Adelaide had stopped attending the church ten years prior after the shocking death of one of its parishioners during one of its unusual worship services led by Pastor Chambliss. She felt so strongly about what was going on behind those blacked-out windows that she even moved the children's Sunday school classes outside the church. Abigail didn't agree with Pastor Chambliss' ways, nor did she trust him so she kept her distance. But when there's another death at the church, the trouble lands on her doorstep and she can't ignore the truth any longer.
As Sheriff, Clem always tries to keep the peace but the events that took place during that Sunday evening service, and the subsequent fallout, put him in the middle of a very volatile situation. He must find answers before more lives are lost but getting people to talk proves very difficult. To complicate matters, Clem comes face to face with a man he hasn't seen in years and who bring with him very painful memories from his own tragic past.
One thing I liked about his novel is the three very different perspectives each narrator brought. The young innocence of Jess, the wise voice of Adelaidel and the calm and quiet manner of Clem work together so beautifully, though I would have to say that Clem is my favorite narrator. He's such a likable and fair character and I couldn't help but feel drawn to him.
I'm sure most people can't imagine the kind of worshipping that went on in the church of this story, but the truth is, it is real and things like snake handling and healings do go on in southern churches even today. In fact, there was a news report just last week where a pastor was killed after being bitten by a snake during a service. I had just finished reading this book and even I was shocked by it. Though I have read several southern fiction books involving worshipping with snakes, they disturb me. That said, in my opinion, Wiley Cash did a great job bringing that element without letting it cloud the main plot line. The 1980's were an interesting time in our history, with a lot of changing going on and I enjoyed revisiting that time. I was completely absorbed and had difficult putting this one down. There was a lot of history being told by Abigail and Clem, which gave a clear understanding of where they came from and what kind of people they were. In fact, I felt there was as much background being given as was current storyline, but it didn't bother me at all because it was all very interesting and relevent to the story being told.
If anyone ever wonders why I love reading Southern Fiction so much, all they need to do is read this book and they will have their answer. Nowhere else, in my opinion, will you find deep-rooted stories of family, southern culture, past and present, and genuine characters as you find in books in this somewhat overlooked genre. Wiley Cash is my favorite 'new to me' author and I will be telling everyone I know about his work. I'm very much looking forward to reading Cash's new novel, THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY, which will be released next week. I can't encourage you enough to give this writer a try - I promise you won't be disappointed.
A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME (Kindle Edition)
Author: Wiley Cash (@WileyCash)
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: April 2012
Length: 325 pp
Recommend? YES! This will be on my list of favorite books for 2014