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Book Review

June 21, 2012
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‘A Land More Kind Than Home’

Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

By Wiley Cash

William Morrow


$ 24.99

320 p

Situated in the mountains of a small western North Carolina town, a tiny church boasts a menacing pastor who has managed to enthrall enough townspeople to create a devoted congregation. Pastor Carson Chambliss, although a stranger to Madison County and of mysterious background, nonetheless seduces his churchgoers and, hidden from view by the newspaper-covered windows of his church, convinces them to use snakes, fire and poison in their worship. It is at the hands of Pastor Chambliss that the town meets a chilling tragedy.

In his debut novel, author Wiley Cash convincingly writes of his native state and weaves an impressive lyrical tale narrated by the authentic voices of three characters. Elderly Adelaide Lyle, midwife and folk healer, has lived in the town her whole life. She bravely stands up to the pastor and protects the town’s children by taking them out of the church each Sunday to school them within her own simple faith. Sweet, 9-year old Jess Hall is the vigilant protector of his mute, autistic older brother, Stump. Jess and Stump witness something they weren’t supposed to see, incensing Pastor Chambliss and causing him to yank Stump into his church for a special “healing service” that results in his death. Clem Barefield is the middle-aged county sheriff who, burdened by his own tragic past, sets out to make sense of the terrible events that have occurred in the town.

Cash gracefully moves “A Land More Kind Than Home” back and forth through time, providing background information to reveal and fully render his characters. He portrays his characters evocatively, and his prose is strong and lean. The detail he includes is powerful, as when he describes Jess peeking inside the church to see his brother in peril or when setting the scene prior to the grisly culmination of the novel. Cash is a welcome new voice giving us a heartbreaking, unforgettable story. CV

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