A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062088147
April 17, 2012, 320 pages.
On the surface, this small rural town of Marshall in western North Carolin seems almost perfect, a great place for a couple of young boys to grow up. But events are going to turn out sadly different for young Jess Hall and his older brother Christopher, who almost everyone calls Stump. Yes, Stump is mute but that make no difference to Jess, his best friend and protector. But Jess can't protect him from everything. He can't protect him from the Evil that lives hidden in plain view in their small town.
That evil exists in the lies that some people are living, deception that eats away at relationships, but most of all it lives in the person of the Reverend Carson Chambliss, pastor of the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following. Since Chambliss took over the church things have changed. The windows were papered over so that outsiders could not look in the windows and some, like town midwife Adelaide Lyle, who is also the second of our narrators after Jess, no longer felt comfortable attending services there. Finally, we have our third narrator, Sheriff Clem Barefield, a good man but one who has never totally recovered from his own great loss years ago and not the only one haunted by the past. But is doesn't stop him from seeing that the good reverend is not the man he would have many believe.
Chambliss is terrible scared on the outside from a fire some years ago, and as we will see, horrible on the inside as well. But still, many find him a charismatic figure, a figure who will lead them to go along with a terrible act that will end up tearing this community apart. Some might be motivated by their faith, even if it is misguided, but Chambliss's motivation is quite different, much more personal..much more evil.
I first heard about this book from a glowing review by Sandy at You GOTTA Read This, five stars out of five. And she is right. This is a very good book. Since it is Wiley Cash's first book, one can not help but have great hope for what he will write in the future. Mr. Cash is from North Carolina and that is clear in how perfectly he captures the atmosphere of Marshall and it residents.
This book is part thriller, but much more than that it is a more personal tale about good and evil, love and hate, guilt and innocence. And in large part, I think it was quite successful..except for one thing that would keep me from giving it that 5th star, if I gave stars.
It is quite clear to the reader, as seem through the eyes of out three narrators, that Chambliss is a very bad man. Yet, he has a loyal congregation, who will do a great deal for him. But never once did I get any idea, not an inkling, of that personal charismatic power we are told he has. That he must have for the events of the story to really make sense. And that leads the reader to have to think that his followers are what, rubes, idiots? Or that we are missing something. For me, to see a hunt of that, would have taken the book over the top.
Still, it was a very good book, with a very good setting, great characters and a compelling story that will draw you in and make you hang on until the very last page. I would certainly recommend A Land More Kind Than Home, especially if you are a fan of Southern gothic.
For a touch of bluegrass music and a few more positive words about the book, you might like to check out this video...