A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, April 3, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: A Land Kinder than Home by Wiley Cash


In his phenomenal debut novel—a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town—author Wiley Cash displays a remarkable talent for lyrical, powerfully emotional storytelling. A Land More Kind than Home is a modern masterwork of Southern fiction, reminiscent of the writings of John Hart (Down River), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), Ron Rash (Serena), and Pete Dexter (Paris Trout)—one that is likely to be held in the same enduring esteem as such American classics as To Kill a MockingbirdOf Mice and Men, and A Separate Peace. A brilliant evocation of a place, a heart-rending family story, a gripping and suspenseful mystery—with A Land More Kind than Home, a major American novelist enthusiastically announces his arrival.



A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash is a 2012 William Morrow publication.

Deeply affecting and very impressive debut novel-

Death is to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for a greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth-Thomas Wolfe-

This book fits into both of my 2020 reading challenges, which is to read authors I haven’t tried yet and reading books everyone has read but me. I had a feeling I was going to like the book and the author, but both exceeded my expectations!!

Told from the triple narratives of nine -year old Jess Hall, Adelaide Lyle, a midwife, and the small North Carolina town Sheriff, Clem Barefield, the story chronicles the rise of Carson Chambliss, pastor of River Road Church of Christ and the hold he has over the community.

The church, zeroing in a specific Bible passage, twists it into a circus of snake handling, speaking in tongues, and the drinking of poison. After Adelaide sees a woman die during one of the 'worhip' services, she dares to challenge the pastor, and steps up to protect the county’s children from him, and the strange goings on at the church.

Jess looks over his brother, Christopher, nicknamed ‘Stump’, who is mute and autistic. But the boys have a habit of snooping, and eventually they see something they shouldn’t have. Their mother, Julie, hoping Stump can be healed, allows the pastor to ‘help’ him. The results of Julie’s faith and desperation will prompt Sheriff Barefield to start poking around in the life of the enigmatic Carson Chambliss. This string of events will erupt into a tragic but fateful turn of events…

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, watching as the clouds build into a powerful storm, knowing there will casualties, but unable to tear myself away. The writing is exemplary, the atmosphere thick with dread, and the characters vivid and vibrant. Southern Fiction is always compelling, but it takes a special talent to capture the right tone. Cash employs a stark, literary prose which is quite effective. Occasionally, it was a bit too polished for this premise, but that's a minor flaw.

Clem is so quiet and introspective and his pain is haunting and palpable. Yet, it wasn’t until the bitter end that I began to feel a deeper respect for him.Jess was the conduit by which the events that transpire are connected. His character is one that inspires sympathy, but of the three narratives, his trials are yet to come, which doesn't allow him much room to develop emotionally. ( I would like to hear from him again, someday, though) It was Addie's courage and morality that made the biggest impression on me.

It’s a good thing to see that people can heal after they’ve been broken, they can change and become something different from what they were before.

The irony is thick as the story winds around, coming full circle. Fate and redemption are the most pronounced themes, but love, and true faith are also very strong messages that shone through the murky mess, bringing the promise of better days ahead.

A brilliant debut! So glad I finally got around to reading this one!






Wiley Cash is the New York Times bestselling author of  The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy.  He currently serves as writer-in-residence at the Univesity of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA. He lives with his wife and two young daughters on the coast of North Carolina. 

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