Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dispatch from the Field: Joe Says This Book Is "explosively powerful...the first novel of a writer many will be talking about in the years to come."

A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town

For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. 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's not supposed to--an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess's. It's 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 by three resonant and evocative characters--Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and 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 assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.

Joe says:
"I was hooked in the first few sentences. Adelaide Lyle, sitting in her car, contemplating the history of a church, of a building that houses that church, and of her feelings toward both. Simple, evocative, powerful. There are times when a writer describes too much, leaves too little for the reader. Wiley Cash uses his words sparingly, chooses the perfect amount of description to create a singular place, but leaves enough for the reader to fully inhabit his world. And the world of this novel is the mountains of North Carolina. Small mountain towns inhabited by people respectful of the past and wary of change.

A Land More Kind Than Home is told from the perspective of three characters. Adelaide Lyle, an old woman who brought most of the town into the world. She became the town's midwife, and often acted as the town's doctor, especially when the town's real doctor was too drunk to do his job. Jess Hall is a young boy who saw some things he shouldn't have. He's learning at a very young age that secrets have the power to destroy. And Sheriff Clem Barefield is considered by many to be a newcomer, although he's been the sheriff for over twenty years. From the perspective of these three characters, we see tragedies unfold, all stemming from the pulpit of a pastor, Carson Chambliss.

All of Cash's characters seem true-to-life, and fully realized. They are flawed, they think they're in the right, and they are at times humorous. Cash manages to write from these three different voices with distinct styles that sound true, and that propels the story along. And while the three narrators are fascinating characters, it is the rest of the cast that really keep the story alive. Jess's parents, brother, and grandfather. The Pastor Chambliss. The sheriff's dead son.

Chambliss is a mesmerizing preacher, snake handler, and charismatic leader. His religion is a 'you're with us or you aren't' kind of religion that Adelaide Lyle has a hard time swallowing. There are interwoven plot lines that Cash pulls ever tighter as the story goes on.

It's an explosively powerful book, A Land More Kind Than Home. One I couldn't put down, and that still lingers in my thoughts, weeks after reading it. Even before I was through the first chapter, I was certain I was reading the first novel of a writer many will be talking about in the years to come. If A Land More Kind Than Home is proof, Wiley Cash is a major  new force in American literature."

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