Friday, August 17, 2012

a land more kind than home - Wiley Cash



“People out in these parts can take hold of religion like it’s a drug, and they don’t want to give it up once they’ve got hold of it. It’s like it feeds them, and when they’re on it they’re likely to do anything these little backwoods churches tell them to do. Then they’ll turn right around and kill each other over that faith, throw out their kids, cheat on husbands and wives, break up families just as quick.”

---------

Wiley Cash’s a land more kind than home is not a mystery novel. It is not Southern Gothic either. It reminded me of the early Carson McCullers.

The story takes place in and around Marshall, North Carolina.

Cash tells his story from three points of view--nine-year-old Jess Hall, midwife Adelaide Lyle, and Sheriff Clem Barefield.

Jess and his older brother Stump enjoy an almost idyllic relationship. Stump is unable to speak. He and Jess look on adult life from the outside.

Stump witnesses their mother having sex with the demonic minister of her insanely Pentecostal church.

Jess and a friend look through a crack in the old board church and see a snake-handling service.

And then their mother takes Stump to church. She involves him in two violent healing services. She wants him to be able to speak. But tragedy ensues.

From there, the family falls apart. They face unrelenting violence. The story ends in a deadly shootout.

There are so many threads in the narration. The sheriff’s story in some ways parallels the story of Jess’ family. Adelaide Lyle becomes a wounded healer, a person threatened because she tries to bring calm to an awful situation. And events leave Jess with a most unlikely caregiver.

I can’t tell you how powerful I found this book to be. Cash’s leisurely unfolding of the narrative takes us back and forth in time. Characters both remember the past and struggle in the present. 

For me, a land more kind than home was well worth reading.

5 comments:

Wiley Cash said...

Thanks for the great review, Joe!

Joe Barone said...

You are welcome. I found this to be a great book.

Naomi Johnson said...

So glad you liked it, Joe! I'm already anticipating Cash's next book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am going to wade into it again since I have heard such great things about it. The first few chapters scared me. Snake handling is terrifying to me.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks Naomi. You are the one who led me to this book, so I should be thanking you.

Patti, You are right. This is not an easy book to read. I doubt my wife will read it for similar reasons to yours.