Tuesday, July 24, 2012

REVIEW: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Southern Gothic
Audience: Adult

Summary: In a small North Carolina mountain town outside Asheville, evil has festered for years in the form of Pastor Carson Chambliss, an ex-con and born-again Christian who encourages his congregation to speak in tongues, handle deadly snakes and fire, and drink poison to prove their faith. Adelaide Lyle recognized the danger years ago and insisted that the congregation's children steer clear of Chambliss's raucous services and attend Sunday school with her instead. But a series of events, beginning with the snooping of a young boy, brings the evil out into the open and shatters a family forever.

First Line: "I sat there in the car with the grave dust blowing in the parking lot and saw the place for what it was, not what it was right at that moment in the hot sunlight, but for what it had been maybe twelve or fifteen years before: a real general store with folks gathered around the lunch counter, a line of people at the soda fountain, little children ordering ice cream of just about every flavor you could think of, hard candy by the quarter pound, moon pies and crackerjack and other things I hadn't thought about tasting in years."

Tracy's Thoughts:
Human weaknesses and vulnerabilities are exposed in this evocative novel about rural life, fate, and redemption. Equal parts Southern Gothic and Greek tragedy, it calls to mind the work of Flannery O'Connor. The story is narrated by a chorus of three voices: Adelaide, the town wise woman and healer, a woman who at nearly eighty tells it like she sees it; Sheriff Clem Barefield, still somewhat of an outsider, a middle-aged man haunted by his own family tragedy; and nine-year-old Jess, precocious and adventurous, a boy older than his years from looking out for his mute and most likely autistic older brother. The novel weaves back and forth through time, seamlessly revealing events of the past to elucidate the tragedy that occurs early on in the narrative. This layering of perspective and events creates a dark, quiet intensity that pulls you in, the tension gradually building up to the final, inevitable conclusion.

And debut author Wiley Cash's writing is fabulous.The dialog and idioms are spot on, perfectly capturing the flavor of the mountains and its people without introducing awkward, unreadable dialect. The lyrical prose is unpretentious, and the characters lovingly crafted.This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the work of Tom Franklin and John Hart. This book offers plenty of food for thought and discussion; it would make an ideal book club read.

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