A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Description: A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town.
For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can't help sneaking a look at something he's not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess's. It's a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he's not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.
Told by three resonant and evocative characters—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past—A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.
My thoughts: This book is captivating. The writing style is, as far as I can remember, similar to These Is My Words. It is lyrical and poetic while written in the style of speaking in a small, North Carolina town.
There are three narrators throughout the book, beginning with Addie, a somewhat elderly spinster who has seen a lot through her years and adds different layers to the story. She knows and remembers things that the others do not. She begins directly after a child's funeral. His death is mysterious but those who weren't present have suspicions. The mother of the child returns from the funeral and announces that the pastor wants a word with Addie who is not a fan of the pastor's. So much not a fan that she took the children from the church when one of the members of the congregation died from a snake bite during an "act of faith."
The second narrator is little Jess Hall. Jess is 9 years old and the brother of the dead child. He sees and understands things the others don't. He is an integral part of the story and part of the powerful conclusion. It is his voice that provides the facts leading up to his brother's death. It is also through him that we discover that his brother, Christopher, or "Stump" as he is commonly called, is a mute. Both boys provide an innocence that can only be found in children in a small town.
The last narrator is Clem, the sheriff. Clem is a transplant from another county. He carries some baggage but tries to keep his own feelings out of the way he conducts his work. There are hard feelings between him and at least one of the other characters in the book which is poetically and tragically healed.
Each chapter provides just a little more information and a lot more depth to the book. The narrators recall different moments when times were different; turning points for each of them. The actual meat of the story is only over the course of a few days, possibly up to a week. Through the narrators, though, much more time and history is covered.
This would be an excellent choice for a book club. There are endless points of discussion that include but are not limited to comparing and contrasting different characters and how they handled similar circumstances, examining present day religious abuses, how God continues to bless in spite of evil. I would also really enjoy a good discussion on comparing the pastor with his snakes. Maybe add the idea of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the serpent which is not included in the book but clearly not far from the author's thoughts. How religion can be polluted by greed and power and used and abused. And then there is the irony of many things that would be spoilers, darn it all. There really are so many points of discussion.
It leaves the reader thinking long after the last page.
View all my reviews