Originally Reviewed: I listened on audio and read the hardcover of this book in the fall of last year, and both were a treat.
New Cover or Old? There is something about the hardcover that holds a bit more menace or foreboding. The paperback blurb would have give me pause because I don’t think I would like it if Cormac McCarthy rewrote To Kill A Mockingbird, and I’m not even sure that’s what I would call this. If I happened upon both of these in a store I would likely go for the hardcover, but having read it, I highly recommend reading it in whatever form suits your fancy. I do like the blue and the trees in the paperback, though.
What I Thought Then: A Land More Kind Than Home was an amazing read & listen. Debut novelist Wiley Cash tells the story of Jess Hall, a young boy growing up in a North Carolina town where religion and preachers are a very big deal. The town and its people are heavily under the influence of the creepy preacher, Carson Chambliss, whose origins are a mystery. Jess spends most of his spare time hanging with his friends, and in the company of his developmentally challenged brother, Christopher – a.k.a Stump. Jess and his brother witness something they aren’t supposed to see and as the story goes, nothing is ever the same. The story is told in the three alternating perspectives of Jess, Adelaide Lyle (a former midwife) and the town’s Sheriff, Clem Barefield. The dialogue and accents are pitch perfect, the prose is beautifully rendered, and the suspense is like something I have rarely read. I was so worried for these boys and what would happen in this town!
Cash lucked out with his narrators – Lorna Raver, Nick Sullivan, and Mark Bramhall. Mark Bramhall gives an especially distinguished performance. If ever a character showed up on an audio, he does it as Clem Barefield.
Now, On Further Reflection: Months after finishing it, A Land More Kind Than Home has stayed with me. It’s a novel about many things, loneliness, religion and faith, small town life, and people who have been unable to escape their pasts and choices, Most surprisingly, and lastingly, it’s about forgiveness. I still marvel at the way Cash steered readers down that path. I didn’t see it coming.
Book Club Pick? Definitely! One of the most interesting things about life is that you never know how who you meet or what you are doing will change your life. It could be anything, and an unlucky combination of events that can change your life. With A Land More Kind Than Home there are countless ways that this story could have started, and pinpointing the significance of personalities, actions and events would be a great place to start a discussion.