“My only memory of my mama is a wispy shadow thrown against the cabin wall by candlelight, and in my mind my daddy is a black shadow blotting out the sun in a cleared field. But she brought them back to me and made sure I understood the lives that had come before my own.”
Wiley Cash, A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME
A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME was published in April and is 320 pages. I heard about the book because Wiley and I are in a writer’s group called Book Pregnant, and I was intrigued by the premise and my love of Southern fiction. This novel was so powerful that I have no doubt it will be on my top ten list for 2012. As I told Wiley, his book broke my heart and put it back together.
Set about thirty years ago in western North Carolina, A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME is the story of two brothers, their bond, and how innocent, childhood snooping can lead to the most devastating consequences.
Told from three distinct points of view, the novel starts with the foreboding observations of the town midwife, Adelaide Lyle, about the sinister preacher, Carson Chambliss, who came to town out of nowhere, blacked out the church windows with newspapers, and started holding secret services involving faux healings, snakes, and near hysteria.
Following Adelaide is Jess Hall–a nine-year-old boy who adores his older, mute brother, Stump, and who gets himself into the usual amount of trouble for a boy his age. It is through his innocent musings and instinct for trouble that the tension begins to build.
The third narrative voice is that of Clem Barefield, the Sheriff of Madison County. He’s a man worn from a lifetime of grief and trouble, but one who exudes a better kind of empathy for it. His remembrances of Jess’s father as a young man, and his painful relationship with the entire Hall family are what ultimately force the novel to its terrible climax.
While reading A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME I felt echoes of Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, but Cash has his own style. Like other Southern novels, place looms heavy as a character, and metaphor through physical objects plays out brilliantly. The story can be read for the physical action or pulled apart for the layers. What results is a true symphony of plot, theme, and character.
Make no mistake, this novel is devastating, but Cash is able to redeem his characters in the most beautiful and fitting conclusion. A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME is well worth your time and emotion. It is one of the best novels I’ve yet read this year, and I won’t ever forget it. I give A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME my highest recommendation.