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Reviewed by Claudia Robinson
“There was a speck of dried blood on his lip like he might’ve bit it by accident, and his eyes were closed like he hadn’t woke up yet, and I thought about waking up in the night and looking over at him and watching his mouth puff out air while he slept. At night the house used to be so quiet that I could hear him breathing soft beside me.” – Jess
Carson Chambliss is Pastor of the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, in North Carolina. By challenging the Lord, and death, handling snakes, poison and fire, and surviving, Carson has built a devout following, and the healing that goes on behind the newspaper covered windows, is privy only to those who attend services. Sister Adelaide, however, knows better, and when congregation member Molly is bitten by a snake, and killed, her body unceremoniously dumped back in her garden, left to decompose until found, Adelaide knows enough that the only hand touching anyone is Carson’s, and it’s the furthest thing from Godly. Determined to save the children from evil, Adelaide arranges a sort of uncomfortable truce with Carson, and pulls the children from the Church and in to her care for Sunday School lessons. For a while, it serves it’s purpose, and peace returns to the small town, until one day, the unspeakable happens, and another death occurs in the Church. This time, one of her own is killed.
Jess and Stump are brothers, and even though Stump is a mute, and mocked by many, Jess loves his brother, and the two have always done everything together, a silent communication and understanding, between them. One day, hearing their Mother and Father in the bedroom upstairs, the boys can’t contain their curiosity, and try to sneak a peek in to affairs, best not seen by young eyes. When the gutter they are clinging to pulls free from the house, sending Stump tumbling, and Jess into hiding, it is not their Father that comes running, half naked from their Mother’s room, but Pastor Chambliss. The ramifications of their actions will change their lives, forever.
When Mamma decides, with Carson’s encouragement, that it’s time to take Stump to Church, Jess is indignant. Why can his brother go and not him? Told to wait in the car, Jess’s youth, once more gets the best of him, and he follows, to see what Stump gets to see, without him. What he witnesses, instead, is a healing, of sorts, involving his brother, and the fear in Stump’s eyes makes Jess realize that there is something very wrong with Pastor Carson. The second time Stump is dragged to Church with Mamma, for another ‘healing’, Jess tries to stop them from going, to no avail. This time, however, Stump does not come home, sending Jess’ s life in to a downward spiral, and Sheriff Barefield, a man with a haunting past of his own, into action.
A Land More Kind Than Home is one of those stories that grips it’s readers from the onset and refuses to let go, until the very end, and even then, lingers under the skin, for days. It’s beautifully written, eloquent, sweet, descriptive and whimsical. Every word Wiley writes keeps the reader clinging to the pages, savoring his unveiling of the story, desperately trying not to rush through the chapters, but unable to control the pace. It’s hard to believe this is Wiley Cash’s first book, it’s brilliant. It’s the type of material any writer wishes they could give birth to, a rare gem of a novel.
A Land More Kind Than Home returns readers to a place and space in time where hard work, family and God were the mainstay of life, written so lushly, that even scent, seems to be conveyed at Cash’s hand. Tobacco fields, summer days, snow covered mornings, every scenario Wiley describes, is a vivid and rich tapestry of literary perfection. This is not only a must read, but a must share, and a must keep on the bookshelf, for a rainy day, read over. Absolutely sublime. Books just don’t get better than this one.
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Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.