Tuesday, March 27, 2012
A Land More Kind than Home b y Wiley Cash
For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grownups. 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 isn’t supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It is 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 in three resonant and evocative voices—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and its 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 remarkable assurance and truth, and they show us what an extraordinary promise Wiley Cash has made with this first novel.
This was a wonderful book. It’s one of those that make you feel something in each page. This is what every author strives for, but it is rare to actually see.
The atmosphere, with its Southern Gothic feel, grabs you as soon as you read the first page. You can sense tension in the pages, in every line, and you know that something brutal is about to happen. The interesting thing is that, when that brutality actually happens, we are so invested in the characters that we feel it at an almost physical level.
Something I do wish had been done differently, though, are the different character voices. Since we do switch viewpoints a lot throughout the book, I do wish the characters had more distinct voices. They are pretty similar, even in expressing their own thoughts and I think the book would have been all the richer if there’d been an actual shift the reader could experience.
The writing, though, is gorgeous. It is rather stark, but so effective in its bareness. I can definitely recommend this book to all of you who love literary fiction, or even some of you who like the Southern Gothic genre. I will be looking forward to this author’s next novel.