Title: A Land More Kind Than Home
Author: Wiley Cash
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Nine-year-old Jess spends his days in small town North Carolina hanging out with his brother, Stump. Stump doesn’t talk, and everyone knows he’s not quite right in the head, but Jess loves his brother. When Jess’s mom starts taking Stump to her church, led by a charismatic pastor who seems to hold sway over his flock, Jess knows that he has to stop it because something isn’t right in that church.
I have a confession: I don’t love books narrated by children. Oh, there are the occasional books I’ll enjoy, but for the most part, it’s just not for me. Usually, when I discover a book is narrated by a child, it takes some convincing before I’ll actually read it. But with Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home, I knew I wanted to read it even before I saw all the great reviews start rolling in.
Part of the reason I was easily convinced that A Land More Kind Than Home would be an interesting read is the fact that it has multiple narrators. Yes, Jess tells much of the story, but there’s also the adults’ side that he’s not privy to. After all, there’s so much going on in this small town, so many secrets and lies. Cash develops each of his narrators beautifully. From the town midwife who’s seen it all and makes it her personal mission to protect the town’s children from the church, to the sheriff who knows he has to investigate what’s happening, the reader can hear the weariness in each of their voices and feel their desperation in their every word. These characters, including young Jess, are realistic and vivid, ready to leap off the page. It’s hard to believe that each of them doesn’t exist in some small town, somewhere.
The atmosphere in A Land More Kind Than Home is absolutely amazing. When reading the novel, it seems as though this is a story that couldn’t have taken place anywhere else. With every word and every phrase, Cash captures the scene of rural North Carolina perfectly. This is a story so rooted in setting; the descriptions are incredibly well done.
If you’re looking for a literary novel with threads of mystery, serious moral questions, and an incredible sense of place, this is a great choice. In fact, there’s so much to discuss with its vivid characters and difficult questions that it’d make an ideal book club pick. It’s an easy read, but a thought-provoking one, and it’s sure to stay on your mind long after you turn the last pages.