Reader reviews for A Land More Kind Than Home

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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