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.
©2012 Wiley Cash (P)2012 HarperCollinsPublishers
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
Not since "Night of the Hunter" can I remember a more charismatically evil "preacher" captivating a community and placing innocent children in peril. Two people know the danger in the preacher - the sheriff who has no legal evidence to act, and Adelaide, an elderly woman of the church who has appointed herself protector of the children in the congregation. These two are moral anchors of the community, in their own ways keepng the peace. But then the curiosity of two brothers sets events in motion that gain momentum and become explosive in a matter of only days.
Wiley Cash has perfectly captured the language of the region, with a finely tuned ear for genuine dialogue and prose. The characters are complexly gritty, tender, damaged and innocent, Told by three first-person voices, we get an inside look at life in the mountain country of North Carolina, where communities are close knit and closed in, and ruled by tobacco and fundamentalist religion. The three voices - Adelaide, Sheriff Barefield, and Jess Hall, a 10 year old boy terrified at being thrust center stage in the machinations of an adult world he can't understand, are all voiced impeccably by a trio of accomplished narrators. I generally avoid multiple-reader books, but seeing that Lorna Raver was included convinced me to give it a try. (Her performance of "Fried Green Tomatoes" was exquisite.) I was not disappointed.
I don't recall why I purchased this book, and when I got around to reading it the beginning made me wonder why I would have selected it. As I got further into it I realized I'd made an excellent choice. I like to mix my genres and this threw a nice curve into the mix.
The book was thought provoking and told a story that seemed more true than others that might be more morally judgmental or have a morally-satisfying ending. I like that. Nothing was easy about this tale and it makes me want to search out more Cash books.
Since the chapters were written as first person, it was a natural to use several readers. These narrators all did excellent jobs with their characters.
Say something about yourself!
I am not a wuss so I was surprised that the author could make me cry. But he did! What a well-written book. Excellent characters, even though you could have throttled some of them, especially our young hero's mother. The "heavy" was also an interesting character. I loved the way different characters narrated different chapters. This technique of different points of view kept my interest in the story and in the suspense going strong. I was always wondering how the story would end and whether the bad guy would get his due. I will look for more from Wiley Cash. A suspenseful and fresh novel of suspense.
So Many Books, So Little Time
This is a beautifully written book with powerful characterization. It is told from three points of view - a story-telling technique that I happen to love because I know how difficult it is to write. Jess Hall is the younger brother of "Stump," a mute; Adelaide Lyle is an elderly woman and former midwife; and Clem Barefield, the town sheriff. The brothers, Jess and Stump, are endlessly curious which leads them into trouble and unleashes a chain of events that leads to a tragic climax.
What I most loved about this story was the way the author crafted the characters revealing bits and pieces of their pasts with both delicacy and power. I especially loved Clem for his essential goodness and his weariness of the evils of the world. The author's ability to convey a sense of place through the personalities of the people that inhabit it is mesmerizing. The ending is heart-breaking but believable. Altogether a great read.
The narration was excellent - I especially loved Mark Bramhill, whose strong, gruff voice perfectly embodied the world-weariness of a small town sheriff who has just seen too much and is tired of it all.
Adelaide, the wise old town mid-wife, is the introductory voice of this atmospheric story, so smoothly performed by Lorna Raver that you want to tip a bucket over on the front porch and take a seat at Adelaide's feet while she gently rocks back and forth and envelops you into this somber and cautionary tale. From the day she witnesses a church service that ends with her friend being bitten twice by a copperhead snake -- she knows that there is an evil in Preacher Chambliss. This evil, hiding behind a mask of religion, and using *faith* as its weapon, brings a mournful piece of history colliding into the present time with tragic consequences. The story passes the narrative between Adelaide, innocent 9 yr. old Jess, and Sheriff Barefield -- each voicing the story from their point of involvement. The voice of Jess didn't work for me, seemed a bit contrived or miscast; Sheriff Barefield was perfect.
There is great promise here: A perfect setting, great cast, and a generational story, I found it entertaining and it held my interest, sometimes more than other times. This is one of those good books that had all the underpinnings to be an amazing book. The Evil Preacher Chambliss with his deadly ceremonial snakes was evil incarnate, and could have used more history; the naive Julie's unaware descenion into sin, the father's alcoholic past -- there were several incidents that I wanted to hear more about which could have added some heft to the foundation of the saga.
A terrific debut novel that I enjoyed -- it's almost like comfort food for the ears. Cash is a writer I want to hear more from and won't just be waiting to hear about...I will be anxiously watching for his next book.
Yes - you need to "hear" the distinct voices
Clem - he seemed to be the voice of reason while Addie gave the needed moral/spiritual guidance
They nailed the accent, the tone and the delivery of people from that area of the country
This book just shattered me. I not only listened to the audible version, I read it too. The depth of storytelling combined with the perfect touch of lightness kept it from being overdramatic. It was honest and true to the region and the issue of bondage within religion, the issues of social class and structure, and the power of forgiveness.
This was a great audiobook to listen to, primarily because the story itself was so fascinating. A snake oil salesman reverend has built a congregation in a secluded town where he subjects his followers to horribly risky acts that have deathly consequences! This story is about a charasmatic person's ability to draw in people to do things that are against their best interests, and how one person's charm can blind people to what's right & wrong.
This story is told by multiple people and there are multiple voice actors performing in this audiobook which was a real treat to listen to. From these multiple perspectives you can really get a feel for the power dynamics that make up small towns. When I first started listening to this I thought it was a mystery, but it is not at all, but it has a lot of suspense in it and it is a great story to listen to and multitask with.
This is one of those cases where the audiobook is probably better than the book itself. I don't normally like hearing multiple narrators, but these three do an amazing job. It is hard to pick one over the others. They are each devastatingly perfect, drawing you into the pathos (and brilliance) of each character masterfully.
The narrators have something to work with, of course. The writing is absolutely brilliant, with each character revealing the pieces of their past that made them who they are. By the end, you know them well. They've come to life -- and you love all three, particularly Jess, the boy who watches (literally) as his life unravels. An amazing feat for such a short book.
Can't wait for this author's next one.
I'm not sure if it was because of the rural North Carolina mountains with the tobacco fields, or the church, but this book took me home. Granted, I never went to a "snake handling" church, but I loved the setting and story here. I actually listened to this book on Audible, but would have loved it just the same. It has a rural Kentucky feel to it as well, and that's why I think I was drawn to it. Either way, I'll be buying this to keep on my shelves as well.
Rich, dramatic, inspiring
I never have that much time, but I was anxious to get back to it
The characterization in this book is some of the strongest I've ever read (or listened to in this case, where I "read" the audible version). The three narrators' voices provide windows into their lives and thoughts while at the same time telling the story of powerful events taking place in the small backwoods North Carolina town. As we come to know the speakers, their insights into the main characters involved in the events bring those characters to life as well.
I would recommend this book in whatever format suits you, but if you are able to listen to the audible version, you will be rewarded by excellent readers.
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