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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.

Topics: Family and American South

Published: HarperCollins on Mar 27, 2012
ISBN: 9780062196774
List price: $11.99
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A most evocative story of a Southern slice of life that revolves around the impact of an extreme evangelical church in a small town, and the power of one person to introduce evil. Told from three points of view, the author is skilful in making each narrator distinct, particularly the nine year old boy. The fact that the apparently inevitable tragedy is pretty clear from the start in no way diminishes the strength of the story, and although the ending is a bit abrupt, its positive message lingers with the reader.read more
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In his debut novel author Wiley Cash tells a chilling tragic tale from the view points of three of the main characters. The first is from Adelaide Lyle, an town's elderly midwife and healer who finds that the things that have been taking place at their local church isn't something that the children should be a part of. When she confronts the pastor, Carson Chambliss, he relents to having the children spend time with her but only if she is willing to keep the secrets of the church to herself. Seeing herself as the children's only protector, she agrees.The second part of the story continues with a young boy named Jess who has an older brother Christopher that was born a mute. Earning the nickname Stump, which the reader will learn about later in the book, the spend their lazy summer days hunting down salamanders and just being boys in Madison County. Everything was going along perfect until Jess and Christopher spied on his mother one day and after that, nothing would ever be the same again.The final part of the book picks up with the local town Sheriff, Clem Barefield, who has a bitter and painful past of his own being a sheriff and resident in the small rural town of Marshall. The reader will learn how this man is interconnected with the case of a lifetime when he's called into investigate a murder. What happens then will completely change everyone's lives forever.I received A Land More Kind Than Home compliments of William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. This was an interesting story with a unique twist I can't give away but once you begin reading, the story hooks you until the very final page. In all honesty I didn't see how this plot would turn out in the end, and think that Wiley Cash did a masterful job at creating a book that readers will enjoy for his debut. I rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars and for those that love a bit of suspense with their murder mystery in a town that doesn't want to share their secrets, then this is a must read for you.read more
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In western North Carolina sits Marshall, a quiet, protective mountain town where the inhabitants are skeptical about outside interference.Three people narrate the story. The first is Sister Adelaide, an elderly church member who objects to the handling of snakes and other dangerous things church members are forced to do to prove their faith.Jess Hall is a nine-year-old, innocent child. His narration shows his curiosity as he wonders what goes on behind the covered windows of the church. His brother, Christopher, known as Stump, is age thirteen. Stump doesn't talk and Jess tries to look out for him.The final narrator is the sheriff, Clem Barefield. When he hears that a child has been killed at the church, he lets his feelings become known. Like Sister Adelaide, he objects to the dangerous things that the people of the church do and thinks that church officials should be held accountable for what goes on there.Clem investigates Carson Chambliss, the pastor of the church. He finds that Chambliss was formerly in prison for drugs but now claims to have found God. He has such power over his parisoners that Clem doesn't know if he'll get anyone to give evidence against them.There is a powerful scene where church members try to force their way into the home of the parents of the child killed at the church. They feel that they can sway the mother but the child's father blocks their way. It ends in a physical confrontation and reminded me of some of the confrontations in "The Grapes of Wrath."The writing is superb and the story will pull at the reader's heart and leave them thinking about events of the novel for a long time.read more
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I really enjoyed this book and would have rated it a 5 except for a couple of things. First, I thought the end was a bit rushed. It wasn't as conclusive as I would have liked it to be. And second...there were one or two scenes that didn't really contribute to the plot. I kept waiting for those scenes to tie into the story and they never did. Anyway, I loved the book and would recommend it.read more
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From the very first chapter I knew this was going to be a powerful and emotionally-draining story. The book, set deep in Appalachian North Carolina in 1986, is narrated by three characters: 81-year-old Adelaide Lyle, 9-year-old Jess Hall, and the 60-year-old sheriff, Clem Barefield. The focus of all of their "testimonies" is the town’s only pastor, Carson Chambliss, and his “River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following.” The particular signs this pastor has his congregation following come from the Gospel of Mark 16:17-18: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."Pastor Chambliss insists on a literal translation of this passage, and challenges his congregants with the many snakes he brings in crates for every service. [The character of Chambliss is based on actual faith-healers, generally of the Pentecostal faith, and primarily operating in Appalachia, who have also established “Signs” churches, and who may require snake handling or poison-drinking as evidence of salvation. This practice has led to abuse in real-life as well as in fiction; in 1992, for example, such a pastor in Alabama - Glenn Summerford - was convicted for forcing his no-longer-desired wife to keep her hand inside a rattlesnake cage until she was repeatedly bitten. She actually survived, but he got 99 years. In a bizarre twist to the story, the New York Times reporter who was covering the story was swept away by the spiritual ecstasy of the religion he was investigating, and converted! And there’s more! In 1998, Glenn Summerford’s cousin, Rev. John Wayne Brown, Jr., died while handling a four-foot timber rattlesnake during a sermon. His wife had died of a snake bite three years earlier!Thomas Burton in Serpent and The Spirit: Glenn Summerford’s Story tells the story of Summerford and his ministry via a collection of first-person narratives. A Land More Kind Than Home is in many ways a fictional (and more tightly focused) version of this story.]Wiley Cash’s choice of narrators adds dramatic depth by interweaving their stories with that of Chambliss. We learn of a marriage that has suffered from the birth of a disabled child; the lifelong pain of dissension between fathers and sons; the repercussions of forgiveness or its lack; how a young child might interpret the very adult things going on around him; and the way faith can be wielded as a weapon. All of the narrators and the others in their lives have suffered pain in need of spiritual healing, but Chambliss is the only game in town. And as Sheriff Barefield points out to Chambliss, "You ain't Christ!" Nevertheless, Pastor Chambliss commands a mighty power over the town's residents through his use (and abuse) of the church. One can’t help but conclude that some of the tragedy that results is not even the worst or meanest thing that could have happened. As Cash writes in the epigraph, quoting Tomas Wolfe in You Can’t Go Home Again:"Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying: ‘[Death is] to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home….”Discussion: Cash’s ability to imagine the thinking of the three such radically different individuals who serve as his narrators is impressive, and his atmospheric evocation of Appalachia even more so. And although the book may have been inspired by real events, Cash adds powerful dramatic elements to enhance and deepen the story. Additionally, this is one of the few instances I can think of in which a totally evil character, with no nuance whatsoever, seems so realistic I could hardly bear not seeking him out and doing away with him! Evaluation: This striking novel is not easy to forget. The writing is exceptional, and the characters well-drawn. Highly recommended!read more
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This is a touching and well written novel about two young brothers, their parents and grandpa, a fundamentalist church with its charismatic but evil preacher, and the local sheriff. It has a wonderful sense of place and a good feel for its characters. The story is told from multiple points of view, but still manages to be sequential (rather than repetitive). I liked it and will look forward to more from Mr Cash.read more
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Southern fiction often reminds us that evil exists where we least expect to find it and that we let our guards down at our own risk. Wiley Cash’s disturbing debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, set deep inside the rural North Carolina of the mid-eighties, takes this approach. There is plenty of evilness in Cash’s story, and most of it is buried in one charismatic preacher’s heart.Sometimes nine-year-old Jess Hall, even though he has an older brother, feels like he is the oldest child in the family. His brother, who carries the unfortunate nickname “Stump,” is severely autistic and has never spoken. Jess loves Stump dearly and has routinely assumed the burden of watching out for his brother when the two of them are outdoors on their own. But one day Jess cannot protect Stump from the evil that has entered their home. And, although Jess curses the momentary cowardice that led him to run off and abandon Stump to his fate, he will fail Stump one more time – with tragic consequences. A Land More Kind Than Home explores the power of deeply held religious faith to blind true believers to the evil within those whom they trust the most. Pastor Chambliss, whose church the boys’ mother attends, has a criminally checkered past and is not a man to tolerate people spying on him. Unfortunately, Jess and Stump, who greatly enjoy the thrill of spying on adults, inadvertently do spy on the preacher one day, with lasting consequences that will impact their entire community.This is a story of good vs. evil, one that explores what can happen when evil is allowed to have its way unchallenged. It is about a community’s responsibility to protect its children even when their mother fails to do so. It is about secrets, the kind that can get people killed, ruin marriages, or allow one man callously to exploit for decades those who trust him most. It is Southern fiction at its best, and Wiley Cash has claimed a well-deserved spot for himself within the genre. Rated at: 4.0read more
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What a tragic story. Written from the view point of many of the people of the story and very well written. I don’t think I can recommend it to others but I’m glad I read it. Although it was a sad, sad story it was so well done that I liked it. 8/3read more
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A moving book about all the different ways people try to find redemption. The land and the weather are as important (and as well portrayed) as the characters. The various voices that tell the story are distinctive. Each story is compelling in its own right.read more
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Nine-year-old Jess Hall was watching though a crack in the wall when the members of his mother’s church, the River Road Church of Christ, attempted to heal Jess’s mute older brother, nicknamed Stump. The church members, accustomed to snake-handling and speaking in tongues under the guidance of their horribly scarred pastor Carson Chambliss, used a laying-on-of-hands that half-crushed the boy until Jess called out his mother’s name in fear. So when his mother takes Stump back to the church for a special evening service and Stump winds up dead, Jess knows how it happened, and knows who he blames—himself. When he cried out, everyone thought it was Stump. If he’d told the truth, would his brother be dead? But Jess is the only one blaming himself; Sheriff Barefield, who investigates the crime, and elderly midwife and healer Adelaide Lyle, who watches the church’s children on Sundays to keep them away from the snakes, both blame Carson Chambliss, a preacher as evil and manipulative as they come. So does Jess’s father, who has turned to drink in his grief. When shocking revelations about Carson Chambliss come to the fore, the situation becomes explosive.Narrated in turns by Jess, Barefield, and Adelaide, this darkly Southern gothic tale of religious frenzy, smalltown life, and the power of belief is evocative and compelling.read more
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It's hard to believe this is Wiley Cash's debut novel. The plot and storytelling both shine. The story is centered around a secret in a small town populated with typical characters including the evil preacher, the devout followers, the skeptics, the disenfranchised, and the drunk and disorderly. The characters are crisp and distinct and fully actualized - no two-dimensional or filler folks to be found. The plot is suspenseful and includes just enough side details to keep you interested and guessing how it will all come together. But the real beauty of A Land More Kind than Home is in the writing. Cash somehow immerses the reader into small town Appalachia. Every word feels slow and humid and desperate and tobacco-steeped. It's a book to be savored on a slow Sunday afternoon.read more
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This book was utterly devastating. Gripping from the very first, and all the way through, with complex and fascinating characters and storyline. Heart wrenching story of a small town family and the church that will ultimately destroy them in one way or another. Suspensful enough to have me on the edge of my seat, one of the best domestic dramas that I've read since Swamplandia!read more
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This debut novel was pretty good. In fact, I would have given it four stars until the last few pages, when a character's religious beliefs started to feel like authorial intrusion, and I felt lectured to... Still, well worth reading for the compelling story, the fresh and often gorgeous prose.read more
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Throughout history, “home” has been considered the one idealized safe haven in a dangerous world. It is supposed to be the one place that allows one to heal one’s wounds – mental, spiritual, and physical – and it is the one place filled with people who are supposed to provide unconditional love. Yet, as everyone knows, “supposed to” does not mean “does”, and there is a reason why most adults dread the idea of going home again. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash explores this idea of a home that is more dangerous than protective, in which parents and adults are too caught up in their own dramas to pay appropriate attention to or provide the necessary nurturing to their children, and in which it is the children who pay the ultimate price for this lack of focus.Much of the drama and tension occurs because of the novel’s location. Set in a small, backwoods village in the Appalachian mountains, the backdrop feels more historical than contemporary. This creates a misleading sense of complaisancy within a reader, as one pretends that nothing so archaic could possibly occur in this day and age. However, that in and of itself creates much of a reader’s horror as one realizes that there are hundreds of small towns and villages in the country that still hold such old-fashioned and dangerous belief systems. Once a reader understands this, it is a simple jump to realizing that such a horrible situation could all too easily occur even today.The horror that builds within the novel is due in part with the confusing and somewhat misleading sense of time and place throughout the story. It is also due to the not-so-unique manipulations and power struggles of men. Of the three main voices, Jess should be the one truly innocent voice, as he really does not understand everything he sees and hears, but even he knows that he should have shared certain information with adults immediately. Meanwhile, both Adelaide and Clem understand that something is not quite right within the main church and fail to do anything about it until it is too late. Particularly agonizing is Adelaide’s direct knowledge of what occurs behind the closed windows each Sunday and her failure to take any more direct actions against the preacher or his flock. This lack of action from all of the characters makes Carson’s insidious struggle to maintain power over his flock that much darker and more disturbing.As the three main voices in the novel, Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall do an excellent job capturing the nuances of their individual characters. Mark Bramhall, as always, excels with the down-to-earth voice of reason and is ideal as the rough-and-tumble Sheriff Clem Barefield with his past of loss and despair. Lorna Raver as Adelaide Lyle has the appropriately rough-hued voice that denotes the doubt, frustrations, and concerns of an elderly woman trying to make right without completely rocking the boat. It is Nick Sullivan’s personalization of Jess Hall, however, that steals the show. Mr. Sullivan depicts the innocence and confusion of a nine-year-old boy not quite certain of the situations he observes with great aplomb. More importantly, he does so without sounding patronizing or trite. Together, the three voices blend perfectly to present the emotional turmoil surrounding Stump’s mysterious death and its aftermath.A Land More Kind Than Home is deceptively simple, largely due to the fact that one of the key witnesses is the seemingly unreliable viewpoint of a confused boy. Rest assured however, the story is anything but simple. Told through three very singular voices, the plot unfolds slowly but never too slowly that a reader becomes impatient or restless. Rather, there is a building tension that occurs as a result of the methodical pacing. A reader is swept along with the sense of horror that also develops as a reader fits together the puzzle pieces and the picture of the truth becomes crystal clear. Once the final piece is in place, a reader is left with the stark reality of the true dangers of misplaced religious fervor. A Land More Kind Than Home is a story that will continue to haunt readers with its authentic voices, beautiful imagery, and chilling depiction of a man using the power of the pulpit to achieve his own gain.read more
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Of late, I've been having trouble describing the plots of the books I've read, so why should A Land More Kind Than Home the debut novel by Wiley Cash be any different? So, rather than summarizing what happens, I'll tell you it's an intriguing novel about misplaced trust, blind belief and small southern towns. It's a story of how nine-year-old Jess Hall's life falls apart.A Land More Kind Than Home is told from various people's perspective: Adelaide Lyle, a 70 some year old townslady who has divorced herself from the local church (with newspapers pasted across the windows to hide what goes on inside); Jess Hall himself who describes his feelings about his mute older brother Christopher (aka Stumpy) and his parents; and Clem Barefield, the local sheriff, who in some ways has to clean up the mess that occurs.Through a series of reminiscences interspersed with the current story, readers get a feeling for all of the characters, their histories, their motivations, their victories and defeats. Much of what happens you can predict, but that does not lessen the impact of each event. It just makes you want to read faster to see if it really does occur.There came a point about a third of the way through, when I finally got to read in longer stretches than a few minutes here or there that I found I didn't want to put the book down. Cash has talent for wordsmithing and story telling. No wonder hte book was included in the New York Times Book Review Notable Book list.I tend to tell you about books I like and rarely will I post something about a book I don't like. So, if it's written about here, you know it's good (in my humble opinion). Anyway, it was recommended by Susan, so it must be good, right? We all know she's got high standards when it comes to books. So put A Land More Kind Than Home on top of your pile of books on your nighttable. Actually, if you want to get some sleep, put it on the pile in your living room; otherwise you'll be up til the wee hours trying to finish it.read more
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My goodness but this book was fantastic! His use of local color and dialect, his descriptions, his use of the weather to ratchet up the tension, and all this from a first time author. The town midwife, Adelaide, who sees it as her job to protect the children, the sheriff, who has plenty of tragedy in his own life, and the two young boys, Jess, who is in third grade, and his older but mute brother, Christopher. When evil comes to their small Appalachian town in the form of itinerant preacher, Chambliss, events are set in motion that will leave few unscathed. Two boys would pay for their natural curiosity in a way that is out of all proportion to their misdeed. I knew this story drew me in when I found myself wanting to grab one of the characters and tell them not to do it. I felt the tension in the pit of my stomach, like the way one feels before the big drop on a roller coaster. Yet in ends in a note of hope and a looking forward to that I would not have thought possible. Absolutely gripping!read more
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This extraordinary novel will certainly stir your emotions.Set in the oppressive heat of North Carolina, the story unfolds from the viewpoint of three people. Adelaide Lyle is a force to be reckoned with. An elderly, deeply religious matriarch, she has not attended church for ten years because she strongly disagrees with the manner of pastor Carson Chambliss’s teaching methods and his dubious healing practices. Instead, she teaches Sunday school to the local children at her home. Clem Barefield is the town sheriff. He’s a “regular kind of guy” and a popular figurehead in the community. There is sadness in his past which links him to the family of our third character Jess Hall. Jess is just nine years old, but he has witnessed more than any child should have to. One Sunday, he spies through a church window at a healing service which attempts to “cure” his mute, autistic older brother Christopher. He not only doesn’t comprehend what he is watching, but is scared for his brother. Worse still, he is unable to tell anyone, as he knows he shouldn’t have been watching. A further such healing service ends in unimaginable horror when Christopher is smothered to death. Understandably, local feelings run high and the fall out is catastrophic.Wiley Cash has a wonderful gift of drawing you in to his novel from the first page. His understanding of personalities is first class, no mean feat when they span several generations. I loved this book. It is a pleasure to read and a debut for Cash who has a second novel in the pipeline, also set in his beloved North Carolina. I can’t wait!This book was made available to me, prior to publication, for an honest review.read more
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Three narrators tell the tragic story of the death of a young man during a church's faith healing service. Cash paints a fascinating picture of life in the tobacco growing part of North Carolina in this his first novel.read more
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Loved this book. The tension built quietly but continuously. If you liked the way the characters were developed in Crooked letter, Crooked letter, you'll like the character developement in this as well.read more
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In a moving and exquisitely written debut novel, Wiley Cash brings us the culture and cadences of the American Deep South, more specifically its somewhat perverse version of Christianity in which venomous snakes, poison and hysterical healing all play a part. Nine-year-old Jess protects his mute autistic older brother Chris as best he can, but when Chris sees something untoward between his mother and the sinister local preacher there is nothing Jess can do. Fundamentalism, alcohol, ignorance, fear and the sort of small dirty secrets we expect in hillbilly country come together with a tragic inevitability in this beautifully flowing story, enlivened by multi-point of view narratives.read more
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Loved it. Cash has a wonderful way of telling a story, and keeping you riveted the entire time.read more
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It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel--the prose is stirring, the atmosphere nearly touchable, the characters memorable. Of course, he had one heck of a mentor: Ernest Gaines. But this guy has all kinds of talent plus he's smart enough to stick with what he knows best: the folks, scenery and culture of North Carolina. This story is about an old midwife, a charismatic preacher, a sheriff and two small boys, one of which is autistic. It's about secrecy and forbidden knowledge that starts a chain reaction of tragedy that leaves one family, and a whole town, changed forever. This is an exceptional book, and the start of what should be a brilliant literary career for this impressive young man.read more
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Like a lot of kids, Jess and his mute brother, Christopher (“Stump”), are curious about the world of adults. They’re not above spying to satisfy their curiosity either. One day, Stump witnesses something that will change their lives, and their community, forever.A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash, is a superb novel that just oozes atmosphere. Set in the mountains of western North Carolina, the book tells the story of a region and its people and Cash gets both perfect. I’ve lived near that part of the country for a while and I appreciated the quality of the dialogue and the sense of place in this wonderful novel.The story is told from the points of view of Jess, Sheriff Clem Barefield, and Adelaide Lyle, a pillar of the church and the community. Through their different perspectives, readers are able to piece the story together as they learn of the past and secrets kept. It’s a story fraught with tension that had me on the edge of my seat. It’s hard to believe this is Cash’s debut novel, because his writing ranks right up there with the best Southern authors. This book is sure to be one of my favorites of the year.I listened to the audio version and thought it was just wonderful. It’s narrated by Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall and they all do a marvelous job. They get the accents and the rhythm of the area just right. The audio version lasts about nine hours and the time just flew as I listened to it.A Land More Kind Than Home is a book you don’t want to miss. I have a feeling it’s the start of something big for Cash.read more
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In the rural hills of western North Carolina, fire and brimstone preacher Carson Chambliss leads his flock by laying on hands, tempting rattlesnakes, and performing other acts stereotypical of religious zeal. When congregant Julie takes her deaf-mute son Chris for healing, her other son Jess decides to spy on the proceedings. During the ceremony’s pandemonium in which young Chris is pawed and restrained, the congregation hears “Mamma!” exclaimed. Everyone mistakes the utterance for a miracle, when in reality it was just the cry of a terrified Jess as he peaks through a crack in the wall. Believing the ritual worked Julie takes Chris for a second round of healing, but this time with tragic consequences. The aftermath of the incident, as well as key characters’ backstories emerge through the voices of Jess, the sheriff, and a skeptical church member.Personally, I found the storytelling style of drawing out the minutiae of every action quite tiresome. Nobody in this book “drinks a glass of water.” Instead, the person “gets up from his chair” ….”walks towards the sink”…..”opens the cabinet”…..”rummages around for a glass”……”opens the fridge”…..”sees a bone china pitcher” .....”pours the water”…..and finally, FINALLY, drinks it! This style can work briefly to build suspense, for example, but using it for practically the entire book was annoying. Other criticisms I have read (which, by the way, do not reflect my opinion) include telling the story through a shifting first person point-of-view (a style I rather like), and hackneyed characterizations like that of Pastor Chambliss, a fanatical fundamentalist. (How else does an author depict such a character except through clichés?)All in all I enjoyed the book in spite of its shortfalls. Not recommended if you’re looking for an action packed thriller, but an engaging psychological drama.read more
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Great Southern flavor, wonderful characters, and a heartfelt and too-often tragic story all add up to make for a great summer read. I'm a sucker for Southern lit, and this book, with its poison-drinking, snake-handling Christians, with kids caught in circumstances beyond their control, with dialogue that seemed so right to me, did not let me down. My only issue with the book came in the last chapter where a character I met at the beginning of the book and very much liked, wrapped up the story. To me, the last couple of pages seemed a little too preachy, and it felt more like the author was speaking to me than that the character was.Other than that minor quibble, I loved this novel.Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance copy for my review.read more
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Wiley Cash has a way with words. He can make you see a rain storm or love with equal clarity. In A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME he has written a beautiful elegy for love and death, faith and fear, condemnation and redemption. Told in three very different voices, the tale unfolds in starts and pauses and then backtracks on to itself. Occasionally Cash loses his way and the story loses momentum. But stick with him because in the pulsing end, you will know you have found a wonderful new voice.A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME follows the inhabitants of a small back country Appalachian community. They include an outsider Sheriff and the drunk the sheriff blames for his son's death, the drunk's son and his church obsessed wife, their two young sons - one a mute, a spellbinding preacher with a hidden past and the area's "healer" woman. Cash is point perfect in detailing the culture of Appalachia, the speech patterns of his characters and an atmosphere of foreboding. Book groups will find a wealth of topics including family dynamics, faith and faith that becomes oppressive, guilt and how it can poison relationships, fear of the unknown, outsiders, understanding disabilities, alcoholism, infidelity, and secrets.read more
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I maybe shouldn’t have started another southern book so soon after finishing The Homecoming of Samuel Lake which swept me off my feet and gave me a heck of a book hangover. There were times I was really into this story then it would cut back to the past and talk about something else which was somewhat related to the story being told but took me out of the present story. If you are a follower of my reviews you know I like a story that goes back and forth in time but this one seemed to do it without warning and took me a bit to catch up.The zealous religion in this one reminded me of Rapture of Canaan by, Sheri Reynolds. The pastor is not a good man and is pretty much a psychopath. It had me thinking the old saying “Lord save me from your followers.”There actually wasn’t many likable characters in this book because everyone seemed to be hiding something and when the big (*No Spoilers*) came I would have done the same thing as Ben did and didn’t feel one bit sorry for the other parties. My problem with the characters was if even one person who knew the truth had spoke up would events have been different? I am not talking just Jess either the midwife too if you read her first section what if she had told the truth then?This is a very sad book without a happy ending, and as I’ve said in other reviews I like a HEA even if it’s just some kind of redemption and this book didn’t really have that or a conclusion I felt like Jess was left hanging at the end and am curious about his relationship with his mother as he got older.This was a good story nothing really groundbreaking but a good well written story none the less and I would read other books by this author.The Narration by, Lorna Raver, Mark Bramhall & Nick Sullivan was very well done and they embodied the voice of each characters perfectly.If you are looking for a happy story this ain’t it but if you want a well told story about the dangers of believing that some crazy snake charmer is a man of God then you’ll enjoy this one.3 ½ Starsread more
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As lyrical, beautiful, and uncomplicated as the classic ballads of Appalachia, Cash’s first novel is a tragic story of misplaced faith and love gone wrong, set in the mountains of North Carolina. The River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following is a secretive place, with newspapers taped over the windows so you can’t see in, and the minister, Carson Chambliss, is often seen on a Sunday morning carrying cages made of wood and chicken-wire into the building. Still, the neighbors pay little attention until an autistic child becomes the victim of a special healing service, and the local sheriff launches an investigation. Told in three voices-of the sheriff; the child’s younger brother, Jess; and an elderly church member, Adelaide Lyle-the tragedy unfolds and compounds upon itself as the backgrounds of the major players are revealed and each reacts as conscience and faith demand. Summary BPLMy usual complaint: over 300 pages to tell what is essentially one of those dark short stories from the South. A lot of (gratuitous, in my opinion) creepiness with pyromaniacal Pastor Carson Chambliss and his snakes puts the story over the top. It strained my credulity and made it challenging to connect to characters who would put up with Chambliss’ carney-style religion/frenzy.Having said that, I would welcome another opportunity to read something in a different genre by Wiley Cash. In A Land More Kind Than Home, he achieves a colloquial style that is so pleasant—elegantly styled?—to read: both natural and a heightened reality style at the same time—somewhat like Tennessee Williams, whose dialogue could be quite simple on the surface, but like an iceberg, most of the substance is below the water. However, I could do without the shifting POVs whose only purpose seemed to defer the reader’s knowledge of the book’s inevitable tragedy. This is a useful technique in short stories but annoying/jarring when deployed in a full length novel. Young protagonist Jess Hall is a beautifully drawn character: he deserves another/better story.6.5 out 10 Recommended to Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy fans.read more
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Children are naturally curious. Right from the get go, they are exploring their world and learning more than we ever expect through their senses. That curiousity doesn't disappear as children get older. They are still attracted to the forbidden, approaching it sideways and quietly and oftentimes without adults realizing what they are seeing, hearing, and learning. In Wiley Cash's debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, there are big and sinister consequences for children harmlessly and unexpectedly snooping about as children do.Opening with the testimony of Adelaide Lyle, midwife and former church member, it is immediately clear that what goes on in the fanatical, pentecostal Rover Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, is not only beyond the ken of most religious folks but also dangerous and potentially criminal. After the cover-up of the death by snakebite of one of the elderly members of the congregation, Adelaide takes all of the children out of the church for their own safe-keeping, running Sunday school out of her home instead of the church. But even her precautions cannot prevent nine-year old Jess and his older brother Christopher, called Stump and who was born mute, from seeing what they do and precipitating the coming tragedy.Narrated in turn by Adelaide Lyle, Jess, and local Sheriff Clem Barefield, the story centers on Jess and Stump's inadvertant discovery of something certain adults want to hide and on the threatening, malevolent preacher Carson Chambliss who has so thoroughly warped the congregation that they blindly follow him in subjecting themselves to burns, poison, and snake handling to prove the depths of their faith. Chambliss is supposed to be a man of God and he certainly turns his hypnotic charisma on at times but he also keeps his flock in terrified thrall, leading through fear and demanding complete devotion, which Jess and Stump's mother willing offers, taking her mute son to Chambliss and his church for healing.Cash has written an intense, dramatic tale of faith and belief and how far people can be willing to go in the name of both. The plot slowly builds tension even despite the inevitable outcome, keeping the reader anxious about the clearly foreshadowed unraveling of the community in the wake of everything that happens. Cash's depiction of Jess and his struggle of how to make sense of the secrets adults keep and why those secrets matter is well done even if Jess occasionally seems far older than his years. The sense of place in the novel is phenomenal and truly evokes Western North Carolina and its mountains, the way that its communities can be so self-contained and closed. And in the end, the over-arching feel of an almost Biblical retribution is so immediate, visceral, and powerful that the reader will continue thinking about this book long after the final page is turned.read more
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I knew I would love this book from the moment I picked it up. I liked the feel of it, the beautiful cover and the fact that Wiley Cash was a Southern writer. It's unbelievable that this is his first novel. I found myself wanting to visit the tobacco fields of North Carolina and the beautiful rural countryside. All the characters were strong and my heart went out to Jess with all the burdens he had to endure. This book will definitely go on my 'to keep' bookshelf.read more
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A most evocative story of a Southern slice of life that revolves around the impact of an extreme evangelical church in a small town, and the power of one person to introduce evil. Told from three points of view, the author is skilful in making each narrator distinct, particularly the nine year old boy. The fact that the apparently inevitable tragedy is pretty clear from the start in no way diminishes the strength of the story, and although the ending is a bit abrupt, its positive message lingers with the reader.
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In his debut novel author Wiley Cash tells a chilling tragic tale from the view points of three of the main characters. The first is from Adelaide Lyle, an town's elderly midwife and healer who finds that the things that have been taking place at their local church isn't something that the children should be a part of. When she confronts the pastor, Carson Chambliss, he relents to having the children spend time with her but only if she is willing to keep the secrets of the church to herself. Seeing herself as the children's only protector, she agrees.The second part of the story continues with a young boy named Jess who has an older brother Christopher that was born a mute. Earning the nickname Stump, which the reader will learn about later in the book, the spend their lazy summer days hunting down salamanders and just being boys in Madison County. Everything was going along perfect until Jess and Christopher spied on his mother one day and after that, nothing would ever be the same again.The final part of the book picks up with the local town Sheriff, Clem Barefield, who has a bitter and painful past of his own being a sheriff and resident in the small rural town of Marshall. The reader will learn how this man is interconnected with the case of a lifetime when he's called into investigate a murder. What happens then will completely change everyone's lives forever.I received A Land More Kind Than Home compliments of William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. This was an interesting story with a unique twist I can't give away but once you begin reading, the story hooks you until the very final page. In all honesty I didn't see how this plot would turn out in the end, and think that Wiley Cash did a masterful job at creating a book that readers will enjoy for his debut. I rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars and for those that love a bit of suspense with their murder mystery in a town that doesn't want to share their secrets, then this is a must read for you.
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In western North Carolina sits Marshall, a quiet, protective mountain town where the inhabitants are skeptical about outside interference.Three people narrate the story. The first is Sister Adelaide, an elderly church member who objects to the handling of snakes and other dangerous things church members are forced to do to prove their faith.Jess Hall is a nine-year-old, innocent child. His narration shows his curiosity as he wonders what goes on behind the covered windows of the church. His brother, Christopher, known as Stump, is age thirteen. Stump doesn't talk and Jess tries to look out for him.The final narrator is the sheriff, Clem Barefield. When he hears that a child has been killed at the church, he lets his feelings become known. Like Sister Adelaide, he objects to the dangerous things that the people of the church do and thinks that church officials should be held accountable for what goes on there.Clem investigates Carson Chambliss, the pastor of the church. He finds that Chambliss was formerly in prison for drugs but now claims to have found God. He has such power over his parisoners that Clem doesn't know if he'll get anyone to give evidence against them.There is a powerful scene where church members try to force their way into the home of the parents of the child killed at the church. They feel that they can sway the mother but the child's father blocks their way. It ends in a physical confrontation and reminded me of some of the confrontations in "The Grapes of Wrath."The writing is superb and the story will pull at the reader's heart and leave them thinking about events of the novel for a long time.
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I really enjoyed this book and would have rated it a 5 except for a couple of things. First, I thought the end was a bit rushed. It wasn't as conclusive as I would have liked it to be. And second...there were one or two scenes that didn't really contribute to the plot. I kept waiting for those scenes to tie into the story and they never did. Anyway, I loved the book and would recommend it.
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From the very first chapter I knew this was going to be a powerful and emotionally-draining story. The book, set deep in Appalachian North Carolina in 1986, is narrated by three characters: 81-year-old Adelaide Lyle, 9-year-old Jess Hall, and the 60-year-old sheriff, Clem Barefield. The focus of all of their "testimonies" is the town’s only pastor, Carson Chambliss, and his “River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following.” The particular signs this pastor has his congregation following come from the Gospel of Mark 16:17-18: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."Pastor Chambliss insists on a literal translation of this passage, and challenges his congregants with the many snakes he brings in crates for every service. [The character of Chambliss is based on actual faith-healers, generally of the Pentecostal faith, and primarily operating in Appalachia, who have also established “Signs” churches, and who may require snake handling or poison-drinking as evidence of salvation. This practice has led to abuse in real-life as well as in fiction; in 1992, for example, such a pastor in Alabama - Glenn Summerford - was convicted for forcing his no-longer-desired wife to keep her hand inside a rattlesnake cage until she was repeatedly bitten. She actually survived, but he got 99 years. In a bizarre twist to the story, the New York Times reporter who was covering the story was swept away by the spiritual ecstasy of the religion he was investigating, and converted! And there’s more! In 1998, Glenn Summerford’s cousin, Rev. John Wayne Brown, Jr., died while handling a four-foot timber rattlesnake during a sermon. His wife had died of a snake bite three years earlier!Thomas Burton in Serpent and The Spirit: Glenn Summerford’s Story tells the story of Summerford and his ministry via a collection of first-person narratives. A Land More Kind Than Home is in many ways a fictional (and more tightly focused) version of this story.]Wiley Cash’s choice of narrators adds dramatic depth by interweaving their stories with that of Chambliss. We learn of a marriage that has suffered from the birth of a disabled child; the lifelong pain of dissension between fathers and sons; the repercussions of forgiveness or its lack; how a young child might interpret the very adult things going on around him; and the way faith can be wielded as a weapon. All of the narrators and the others in their lives have suffered pain in need of spiritual healing, but Chambliss is the only game in town. And as Sheriff Barefield points out to Chambliss, "You ain't Christ!" Nevertheless, Pastor Chambliss commands a mighty power over the town's residents through his use (and abuse) of the church. One can’t help but conclude that some of the tragedy that results is not even the worst or meanest thing that could have happened. As Cash writes in the epigraph, quoting Tomas Wolfe in You Can’t Go Home Again:"Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying: ‘[Death is] to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home….”Discussion: Cash’s ability to imagine the thinking of the three such radically different individuals who serve as his narrators is impressive, and his atmospheric evocation of Appalachia even more so. And although the book may have been inspired by real events, Cash adds powerful dramatic elements to enhance and deepen the story. Additionally, this is one of the few instances I can think of in which a totally evil character, with no nuance whatsoever, seems so realistic I could hardly bear not seeking him out and doing away with him! Evaluation: This striking novel is not easy to forget. The writing is exceptional, and the characters well-drawn. Highly recommended!
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This is a touching and well written novel about two young brothers, their parents and grandpa, a fundamentalist church with its charismatic but evil preacher, and the local sheriff. It has a wonderful sense of place and a good feel for its characters. The story is told from multiple points of view, but still manages to be sequential (rather than repetitive). I liked it and will look forward to more from Mr Cash.
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Southern fiction often reminds us that evil exists where we least expect to find it and that we let our guards down at our own risk. Wiley Cash’s disturbing debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, set deep inside the rural North Carolina of the mid-eighties, takes this approach. There is plenty of evilness in Cash’s story, and most of it is buried in one charismatic preacher’s heart.Sometimes nine-year-old Jess Hall, even though he has an older brother, feels like he is the oldest child in the family. His brother, who carries the unfortunate nickname “Stump,” is severely autistic and has never spoken. Jess loves Stump dearly and has routinely assumed the burden of watching out for his brother when the two of them are outdoors on their own. But one day Jess cannot protect Stump from the evil that has entered their home. And, although Jess curses the momentary cowardice that led him to run off and abandon Stump to his fate, he will fail Stump one more time – with tragic consequences. A Land More Kind Than Home explores the power of deeply held religious faith to blind true believers to the evil within those whom they trust the most. Pastor Chambliss, whose church the boys’ mother attends, has a criminally checkered past and is not a man to tolerate people spying on him. Unfortunately, Jess and Stump, who greatly enjoy the thrill of spying on adults, inadvertently do spy on the preacher one day, with lasting consequences that will impact their entire community.This is a story of good vs. evil, one that explores what can happen when evil is allowed to have its way unchallenged. It is about a community’s responsibility to protect its children even when their mother fails to do so. It is about secrets, the kind that can get people killed, ruin marriages, or allow one man callously to exploit for decades those who trust him most. It is Southern fiction at its best, and Wiley Cash has claimed a well-deserved spot for himself within the genre. Rated at: 4.0
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What a tragic story. Written from the view point of many of the people of the story and very well written. I don’t think I can recommend it to others but I’m glad I read it. Although it was a sad, sad story it was so well done that I liked it. 8/3
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A moving book about all the different ways people try to find redemption. The land and the weather are as important (and as well portrayed) as the characters. The various voices that tell the story are distinctive. Each story is compelling in its own right.
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Nine-year-old Jess Hall was watching though a crack in the wall when the members of his mother’s church, the River Road Church of Christ, attempted to heal Jess’s mute older brother, nicknamed Stump. The church members, accustomed to snake-handling and speaking in tongues under the guidance of their horribly scarred pastor Carson Chambliss, used a laying-on-of-hands that half-crushed the boy until Jess called out his mother’s name in fear. So when his mother takes Stump back to the church for a special evening service and Stump winds up dead, Jess knows how it happened, and knows who he blames—himself. When he cried out, everyone thought it was Stump. If he’d told the truth, would his brother be dead? But Jess is the only one blaming himself; Sheriff Barefield, who investigates the crime, and elderly midwife and healer Adelaide Lyle, who watches the church’s children on Sundays to keep them away from the snakes, both blame Carson Chambliss, a preacher as evil and manipulative as they come. So does Jess’s father, who has turned to drink in his grief. When shocking revelations about Carson Chambliss come to the fore, the situation becomes explosive.Narrated in turns by Jess, Barefield, and Adelaide, this darkly Southern gothic tale of religious frenzy, smalltown life, and the power of belief is evocative and compelling.
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It's hard to believe this is Wiley Cash's debut novel. The plot and storytelling both shine. The story is centered around a secret in a small town populated with typical characters including the evil preacher, the devout followers, the skeptics, the disenfranchised, and the drunk and disorderly. The characters are crisp and distinct and fully actualized - no two-dimensional or filler folks to be found. The plot is suspenseful and includes just enough side details to keep you interested and guessing how it will all come together. But the real beauty of A Land More Kind than Home is in the writing. Cash somehow immerses the reader into small town Appalachia. Every word feels slow and humid and desperate and tobacco-steeped. It's a book to be savored on a slow Sunday afternoon.
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This book was utterly devastating. Gripping from the very first, and all the way through, with complex and fascinating characters and storyline. Heart wrenching story of a small town family and the church that will ultimately destroy them in one way or another. Suspensful enough to have me on the edge of my seat, one of the best domestic dramas that I've read since Swamplandia!
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This debut novel was pretty good. In fact, I would have given it four stars until the last few pages, when a character's religious beliefs started to feel like authorial intrusion, and I felt lectured to... Still, well worth reading for the compelling story, the fresh and often gorgeous prose.
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Throughout history, “home” has been considered the one idealized safe haven in a dangerous world. It is supposed to be the one place that allows one to heal one’s wounds – mental, spiritual, and physical – and it is the one place filled with people who are supposed to provide unconditional love. Yet, as everyone knows, “supposed to” does not mean “does”, and there is a reason why most adults dread the idea of going home again. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash explores this idea of a home that is more dangerous than protective, in which parents and adults are too caught up in their own dramas to pay appropriate attention to or provide the necessary nurturing to their children, and in which it is the children who pay the ultimate price for this lack of focus.Much of the drama and tension occurs because of the novel’s location. Set in a small, backwoods village in the Appalachian mountains, the backdrop feels more historical than contemporary. This creates a misleading sense of complaisancy within a reader, as one pretends that nothing so archaic could possibly occur in this day and age. However, that in and of itself creates much of a reader’s horror as one realizes that there are hundreds of small towns and villages in the country that still hold such old-fashioned and dangerous belief systems. Once a reader understands this, it is a simple jump to realizing that such a horrible situation could all too easily occur even today.The horror that builds within the novel is due in part with the confusing and somewhat misleading sense of time and place throughout the story. It is also due to the not-so-unique manipulations and power struggles of men. Of the three main voices, Jess should be the one truly innocent voice, as he really does not understand everything he sees and hears, but even he knows that he should have shared certain information with adults immediately. Meanwhile, both Adelaide and Clem understand that something is not quite right within the main church and fail to do anything about it until it is too late. Particularly agonizing is Adelaide’s direct knowledge of what occurs behind the closed windows each Sunday and her failure to take any more direct actions against the preacher or his flock. This lack of action from all of the characters makes Carson’s insidious struggle to maintain power over his flock that much darker and more disturbing.As the three main voices in the novel, Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall do an excellent job capturing the nuances of their individual characters. Mark Bramhall, as always, excels with the down-to-earth voice of reason and is ideal as the rough-and-tumble Sheriff Clem Barefield with his past of loss and despair. Lorna Raver as Adelaide Lyle has the appropriately rough-hued voice that denotes the doubt, frustrations, and concerns of an elderly woman trying to make right without completely rocking the boat. It is Nick Sullivan’s personalization of Jess Hall, however, that steals the show. Mr. Sullivan depicts the innocence and confusion of a nine-year-old boy not quite certain of the situations he observes with great aplomb. More importantly, he does so without sounding patronizing or trite. Together, the three voices blend perfectly to present the emotional turmoil surrounding Stump’s mysterious death and its aftermath.A Land More Kind Than Home is deceptively simple, largely due to the fact that one of the key witnesses is the seemingly unreliable viewpoint of a confused boy. Rest assured however, the story is anything but simple. Told through three very singular voices, the plot unfolds slowly but never too slowly that a reader becomes impatient or restless. Rather, there is a building tension that occurs as a result of the methodical pacing. A reader is swept along with the sense of horror that also develops as a reader fits together the puzzle pieces and the picture of the truth becomes crystal clear. Once the final piece is in place, a reader is left with the stark reality of the true dangers of misplaced religious fervor. A Land More Kind Than Home is a story that will continue to haunt readers with its authentic voices, beautiful imagery, and chilling depiction of a man using the power of the pulpit to achieve his own gain.
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Of late, I've been having trouble describing the plots of the books I've read, so why should A Land More Kind Than Home the debut novel by Wiley Cash be any different? So, rather than summarizing what happens, I'll tell you it's an intriguing novel about misplaced trust, blind belief and small southern towns. It's a story of how nine-year-old Jess Hall's life falls apart.A Land More Kind Than Home is told from various people's perspective: Adelaide Lyle, a 70 some year old townslady who has divorced herself from the local church (with newspapers pasted across the windows to hide what goes on inside); Jess Hall himself who describes his feelings about his mute older brother Christopher (aka Stumpy) and his parents; and Clem Barefield, the local sheriff, who in some ways has to clean up the mess that occurs.Through a series of reminiscences interspersed with the current story, readers get a feeling for all of the characters, their histories, their motivations, their victories and defeats. Much of what happens you can predict, but that does not lessen the impact of each event. It just makes you want to read faster to see if it really does occur.There came a point about a third of the way through, when I finally got to read in longer stretches than a few minutes here or there that I found I didn't want to put the book down. Cash has talent for wordsmithing and story telling. No wonder hte book was included in the New York Times Book Review Notable Book list.I tend to tell you about books I like and rarely will I post something about a book I don't like. So, if it's written about here, you know it's good (in my humble opinion). Anyway, it was recommended by Susan, so it must be good, right? We all know she's got high standards when it comes to books. So put A Land More Kind Than Home on top of your pile of books on your nighttable. Actually, if you want to get some sleep, put it on the pile in your living room; otherwise you'll be up til the wee hours trying to finish it.
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My goodness but this book was fantastic! His use of local color and dialect, his descriptions, his use of the weather to ratchet up the tension, and all this from a first time author. The town midwife, Adelaide, who sees it as her job to protect the children, the sheriff, who has plenty of tragedy in his own life, and the two young boys, Jess, who is in third grade, and his older but mute brother, Christopher. When evil comes to their small Appalachian town in the form of itinerant preacher, Chambliss, events are set in motion that will leave few unscathed. Two boys would pay for their natural curiosity in a way that is out of all proportion to their misdeed. I knew this story drew me in when I found myself wanting to grab one of the characters and tell them not to do it. I felt the tension in the pit of my stomach, like the way one feels before the big drop on a roller coaster. Yet in ends in a note of hope and a looking forward to that I would not have thought possible. Absolutely gripping!
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This extraordinary novel will certainly stir your emotions.Set in the oppressive heat of North Carolina, the story unfolds from the viewpoint of three people. Adelaide Lyle is a force to be reckoned with. An elderly, deeply religious matriarch, she has not attended church for ten years because she strongly disagrees with the manner of pastor Carson Chambliss’s teaching methods and his dubious healing practices. Instead, she teaches Sunday school to the local children at her home. Clem Barefield is the town sheriff. He’s a “regular kind of guy” and a popular figurehead in the community. There is sadness in his past which links him to the family of our third character Jess Hall. Jess is just nine years old, but he has witnessed more than any child should have to. One Sunday, he spies through a church window at a healing service which attempts to “cure” his mute, autistic older brother Christopher. He not only doesn’t comprehend what he is watching, but is scared for his brother. Worse still, he is unable to tell anyone, as he knows he shouldn’t have been watching. A further such healing service ends in unimaginable horror when Christopher is smothered to death. Understandably, local feelings run high and the fall out is catastrophic.Wiley Cash has a wonderful gift of drawing you in to his novel from the first page. His understanding of personalities is first class, no mean feat when they span several generations. I loved this book. It is a pleasure to read and a debut for Cash who has a second novel in the pipeline, also set in his beloved North Carolina. I can’t wait!This book was made available to me, prior to publication, for an honest review.
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Three narrators tell the tragic story of the death of a young man during a church's faith healing service. Cash paints a fascinating picture of life in the tobacco growing part of North Carolina in this his first novel.
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Loved this book. The tension built quietly but continuously. If you liked the way the characters were developed in Crooked letter, Crooked letter, you'll like the character developement in this as well.
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In a moving and exquisitely written debut novel, Wiley Cash brings us the culture and cadences of the American Deep South, more specifically its somewhat perverse version of Christianity in which venomous snakes, poison and hysterical healing all play a part. Nine-year-old Jess protects his mute autistic older brother Chris as best he can, but when Chris sees something untoward between his mother and the sinister local preacher there is nothing Jess can do. Fundamentalism, alcohol, ignorance, fear and the sort of small dirty secrets we expect in hillbilly country come together with a tragic inevitability in this beautifully flowing story, enlivened by multi-point of view narratives.
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Loved it. Cash has a wonderful way of telling a story, and keeping you riveted the entire time.
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It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel--the prose is stirring, the atmosphere nearly touchable, the characters memorable. Of course, he had one heck of a mentor: Ernest Gaines. But this guy has all kinds of talent plus he's smart enough to stick with what he knows best: the folks, scenery and culture of North Carolina. This story is about an old midwife, a charismatic preacher, a sheriff and two small boys, one of which is autistic. It's about secrecy and forbidden knowledge that starts a chain reaction of tragedy that leaves one family, and a whole town, changed forever. This is an exceptional book, and the start of what should be a brilliant literary career for this impressive young man.
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Like a lot of kids, Jess and his mute brother, Christopher (“Stump”), are curious about the world of adults. They’re not above spying to satisfy their curiosity either. One day, Stump witnesses something that will change their lives, and their community, forever.A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash, is a superb novel that just oozes atmosphere. Set in the mountains of western North Carolina, the book tells the story of a region and its people and Cash gets both perfect. I’ve lived near that part of the country for a while and I appreciated the quality of the dialogue and the sense of place in this wonderful novel.The story is told from the points of view of Jess, Sheriff Clem Barefield, and Adelaide Lyle, a pillar of the church and the community. Through their different perspectives, readers are able to piece the story together as they learn of the past and secrets kept. It’s a story fraught with tension that had me on the edge of my seat. It’s hard to believe this is Cash’s debut novel, because his writing ranks right up there with the best Southern authors. This book is sure to be one of my favorites of the year.I listened to the audio version and thought it was just wonderful. It’s narrated by Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall and they all do a marvelous job. They get the accents and the rhythm of the area just right. The audio version lasts about nine hours and the time just flew as I listened to it.A Land More Kind Than Home is a book you don’t want to miss. I have a feeling it’s the start of something big for Cash.
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In the rural hills of western North Carolina, fire and brimstone preacher Carson Chambliss leads his flock by laying on hands, tempting rattlesnakes, and performing other acts stereotypical of religious zeal. When congregant Julie takes her deaf-mute son Chris for healing, her other son Jess decides to spy on the proceedings. During the ceremony’s pandemonium in which young Chris is pawed and restrained, the congregation hears “Mamma!” exclaimed. Everyone mistakes the utterance for a miracle, when in reality it was just the cry of a terrified Jess as he peaks through a crack in the wall. Believing the ritual worked Julie takes Chris for a second round of healing, but this time with tragic consequences. The aftermath of the incident, as well as key characters’ backstories emerge through the voices of Jess, the sheriff, and a skeptical church member.Personally, I found the storytelling style of drawing out the minutiae of every action quite tiresome. Nobody in this book “drinks a glass of water.” Instead, the person “gets up from his chair” ….”walks towards the sink”…..”opens the cabinet”…..”rummages around for a glass”……”opens the fridge”…..”sees a bone china pitcher” .....”pours the water”…..and finally, FINALLY, drinks it! This style can work briefly to build suspense, for example, but using it for practically the entire book was annoying. Other criticisms I have read (which, by the way, do not reflect my opinion) include telling the story through a shifting first person point-of-view (a style I rather like), and hackneyed characterizations like that of Pastor Chambliss, a fanatical fundamentalist. (How else does an author depict such a character except through clichés?)All in all I enjoyed the book in spite of its shortfalls. Not recommended if you’re looking for an action packed thriller, but an engaging psychological drama.
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Great Southern flavor, wonderful characters, and a heartfelt and too-often tragic story all add up to make for a great summer read. I'm a sucker for Southern lit, and this book, with its poison-drinking, snake-handling Christians, with kids caught in circumstances beyond their control, with dialogue that seemed so right to me, did not let me down. My only issue with the book came in the last chapter where a character I met at the beginning of the book and very much liked, wrapped up the story. To me, the last couple of pages seemed a little too preachy, and it felt more like the author was speaking to me than that the character was.Other than that minor quibble, I loved this novel.Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance copy for my review.
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Wiley Cash has a way with words. He can make you see a rain storm or love with equal clarity. In A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME he has written a beautiful elegy for love and death, faith and fear, condemnation and redemption. Told in three very different voices, the tale unfolds in starts and pauses and then backtracks on to itself. Occasionally Cash loses his way and the story loses momentum. But stick with him because in the pulsing end, you will know you have found a wonderful new voice.A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME follows the inhabitants of a small back country Appalachian community. They include an outsider Sheriff and the drunk the sheriff blames for his son's death, the drunk's son and his church obsessed wife, their two young sons - one a mute, a spellbinding preacher with a hidden past and the area's "healer" woman. Cash is point perfect in detailing the culture of Appalachia, the speech patterns of his characters and an atmosphere of foreboding. Book groups will find a wealth of topics including family dynamics, faith and faith that becomes oppressive, guilt and how it can poison relationships, fear of the unknown, outsiders, understanding disabilities, alcoholism, infidelity, and secrets.
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I maybe shouldn’t have started another southern book so soon after finishing The Homecoming of Samuel Lake which swept me off my feet and gave me a heck of a book hangover. There were times I was really into this story then it would cut back to the past and talk about something else which was somewhat related to the story being told but took me out of the present story. If you are a follower of my reviews you know I like a story that goes back and forth in time but this one seemed to do it without warning and took me a bit to catch up.The zealous religion in this one reminded me of Rapture of Canaan by, Sheri Reynolds. The pastor is not a good man and is pretty much a psychopath. It had me thinking the old saying “Lord save me from your followers.”There actually wasn’t many likable characters in this book because everyone seemed to be hiding something and when the big (*No Spoilers*) came I would have done the same thing as Ben did and didn’t feel one bit sorry for the other parties. My problem with the characters was if even one person who knew the truth had spoke up would events have been different? I am not talking just Jess either the midwife too if you read her first section what if she had told the truth then?This is a very sad book without a happy ending, and as I’ve said in other reviews I like a HEA even if it’s just some kind of redemption and this book didn’t really have that or a conclusion I felt like Jess was left hanging at the end and am curious about his relationship with his mother as he got older.This was a good story nothing really groundbreaking but a good well written story none the less and I would read other books by this author.The Narration by, Lorna Raver, Mark Bramhall & Nick Sullivan was very well done and they embodied the voice of each characters perfectly.If you are looking for a happy story this ain’t it but if you want a well told story about the dangers of believing that some crazy snake charmer is a man of God then you’ll enjoy this one.3 ½ Stars
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As lyrical, beautiful, and uncomplicated as the classic ballads of Appalachia, Cash’s first novel is a tragic story of misplaced faith and love gone wrong, set in the mountains of North Carolina. The River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following is a secretive place, with newspapers taped over the windows so you can’t see in, and the minister, Carson Chambliss, is often seen on a Sunday morning carrying cages made of wood and chicken-wire into the building. Still, the neighbors pay little attention until an autistic child becomes the victim of a special healing service, and the local sheriff launches an investigation. Told in three voices-of the sheriff; the child’s younger brother, Jess; and an elderly church member, Adelaide Lyle-the tragedy unfolds and compounds upon itself as the backgrounds of the major players are revealed and each reacts as conscience and faith demand. Summary BPLMy usual complaint: over 300 pages to tell what is essentially one of those dark short stories from the South. A lot of (gratuitous, in my opinion) creepiness with pyromaniacal Pastor Carson Chambliss and his snakes puts the story over the top. It strained my credulity and made it challenging to connect to characters who would put up with Chambliss’ carney-style religion/frenzy.Having said that, I would welcome another opportunity to read something in a different genre by Wiley Cash. In A Land More Kind Than Home, he achieves a colloquial style that is so pleasant—elegantly styled?—to read: both natural and a heightened reality style at the same time—somewhat like Tennessee Williams, whose dialogue could be quite simple on the surface, but like an iceberg, most of the substance is below the water. However, I could do without the shifting POVs whose only purpose seemed to defer the reader’s knowledge of the book’s inevitable tragedy. This is a useful technique in short stories but annoying/jarring when deployed in a full length novel. Young protagonist Jess Hall is a beautifully drawn character: he deserves another/better story.6.5 out 10 Recommended to Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy fans.
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Children are naturally curious. Right from the get go, they are exploring their world and learning more than we ever expect through their senses. That curiousity doesn't disappear as children get older. They are still attracted to the forbidden, approaching it sideways and quietly and oftentimes without adults realizing what they are seeing, hearing, and learning. In Wiley Cash's debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, there are big and sinister consequences for children harmlessly and unexpectedly snooping about as children do.Opening with the testimony of Adelaide Lyle, midwife and former church member, it is immediately clear that what goes on in the fanatical, pentecostal Rover Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, is not only beyond the ken of most religious folks but also dangerous and potentially criminal. After the cover-up of the death by snakebite of one of the elderly members of the congregation, Adelaide takes all of the children out of the church for their own safe-keeping, running Sunday school out of her home instead of the church. But even her precautions cannot prevent nine-year old Jess and his older brother Christopher, called Stump and who was born mute, from seeing what they do and precipitating the coming tragedy.Narrated in turn by Adelaide Lyle, Jess, and local Sheriff Clem Barefield, the story centers on Jess and Stump's inadvertant discovery of something certain adults want to hide and on the threatening, malevolent preacher Carson Chambliss who has so thoroughly warped the congregation that they blindly follow him in subjecting themselves to burns, poison, and snake handling to prove the depths of their faith. Chambliss is supposed to be a man of God and he certainly turns his hypnotic charisma on at times but he also keeps his flock in terrified thrall, leading through fear and demanding complete devotion, which Jess and Stump's mother willing offers, taking her mute son to Chambliss and his church for healing.Cash has written an intense, dramatic tale of faith and belief and how far people can be willing to go in the name of both. The plot slowly builds tension even despite the inevitable outcome, keeping the reader anxious about the clearly foreshadowed unraveling of the community in the wake of everything that happens. Cash's depiction of Jess and his struggle of how to make sense of the secrets adults keep and why those secrets matter is well done even if Jess occasionally seems far older than his years. The sense of place in the novel is phenomenal and truly evokes Western North Carolina and its mountains, the way that its communities can be so self-contained and closed. And in the end, the over-arching feel of an almost Biblical retribution is so immediate, visceral, and powerful that the reader will continue thinking about this book long after the final page is turned.
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I knew I would love this book from the moment I picked it up. I liked the feel of it, the beautiful cover and the fact that Wiley Cash was a Southern writer. It's unbelievable that this is his first novel. I found myself wanting to visit the tobacco fields of North Carolina and the beautiful rural countryside. All the characters were strong and my heart went out to Jess with all the burdens he had to endure. This book will definitely go on my 'to keep' bookshelf.
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