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.
Cash's debut novel is a chilling descent into the world of religious frenzy in small town North Carolina. At the core of the book is a mysterious and demonic pastor, Carson Chambliss, an ex-con and born-again believer who uses snakes and poison to prove God's love: he seduces the town with raucous church meetings where they dance, heal, and speak in tongues until one Sunday a mute child dies during evening service. The novel is narrated from multiple perspectives, taking us deep into the minds of the dead boy's younger brother, Jess, of sheriff Barefield who investigates the crime and has his own past demons to run from, and of Adelaide Lyle, an old healer and midwife who's spent her life grasping after faith and has had her own run-ins with Pastor Chambliss. The story weaves back and forth through time, as the traumas of the past emerge to trouble the present, and the dead boy's father seeks justice through violence and drink. The distinctive and authentic voices of the characters help Cash draw a moving portrait of smalltown life and the power of belief. Though the story falls within the tradition of Southern gothic, the strangeness and horror remain distant in the characters' laconic narration. And while it gestures toward big questions about the nature of religion and the genesis of evil, it is more concerned with melodrama and tragedy. But the book is compelling, with an elegant structure and a keen eye for detail, matched with compassionate attention to character. The languid atmosphere seduces, and Cash's fine first effort pulls the reader into a shadowy, tormented world where wolves prowl in the guise of sheep.