A Land More Kind Than Home came to my attention when author Wiley Cash (or perhaps it was his publisher) tweeted a challenge – something along the lines of “Guaranteed to thrill book groups” (or words to that effect). It stayed in my mind because my book group is a tough bunch – a book has to be pretty spectacular for us to even talk about it (we’re usually busy covering other topics…and wine). Anyways, my book group didn’t read it, but I did.
It’s the story of a small town in North Carolina; a preacher with some shady practices (think his own personal cult, lots of snake-handling and talking in tongues); and a boy, Jess, who’s seen and heard things he wasn’t supposed to – with dire consequences.
The story is told from various points-of-view and as such, there’s plenty of action and solid plot twists.
I was torn by this book. On one hand, some of Cash’s overly descriptive writing irritated me – the details were distracting and unnecessary. For example, I don’t need to know if someone walked around the left or right side of a car to cross the yard, just that they crossed the yard. Equally, repeated descriptions of the position of an air-conditioner…- okay, I’ve got it. When you start to notice that kind of thing, it’s an indicator that it’s too much.
But (and there’s always a but with a two or three star rating), it’s a good yarn. You’re basically waiting for the bad guy to get his just desserts – as good a premise for a book as any.
I have very little experience with the southern gothic genre so I’m not sure how this book holds up against others in the same category but I was entertained – I was cheering for the heroes and booing the villains (who may have been a little cliché but nonetheless, interesting). The ending was perhaps a shade too dramatic but it somehow seemed fitting – a final showdown where all the players come face-to-face in the battle arena. One could think more deeply about some of the key themes (notably the role of religion, blind faith, belief and the power of forgiveness) but I didn’t – I took this book purely on face value.
3/5 Entertaining (but I’m not sure it would have had my book group in heated debate).
There’s a reference to ‘moon pies’ – I didn’t know what a moon pie was before reading this book. I do now. They look delicious.