A land more kind than home by Wiley Cash – a review

I had a bit of a book download frenzy before my trip to Canada, which of course was pre-TOPCWF2015 therefore it meant going through the festival programme and seeing who I hadn’t yet read. The problem when on the move is that I forget what the books I’ve downloaded are actually about and so have to come into reading them blind.
Wiley Cash was not only an author I hadn’t read, but he was one I hadn’t even heard of previously. This was his debut novel. The fact that his name sounds like a country and western singer was a little off putting but I tried to push past that.
The story is set in a small town in the American Deep South. The old time villagers grow tobacco, farm the land and fear the church which is the dominating influence on the community. Although this is a fire and brimstone type of church that uses live snakes to get people to prove their faith, with a pastor who is more reminiscent of a cult leader than a vicar.
This book is told from three viewpoints. There is Jess who has an older brother nicknamed Stump who doesn’t speak, meaning Jess has to act as the protector. There is Clem the local sheriff who has lived in the town his whole life. He is wary of the church but just keeps them at arms length as long as nothing illegal happens. Finally there is Adelaide the old woman who runs the Sunday school. She witnessed a horrific event when she was younger that has led her to avoid the church. However she runs the Sunday school as she believes this will be safer for the children than having them actually attend the church. Stump’s mother is a devout church goer, and one day she takes Stump along to a service in the hope that he can be healed. However he ends up dying at the hands of the congregation.
I really enjoyed this book. The story is not a fast paced murder mystery, but it is definitely a thriller. It starts slowly but each voice has their own story to tell. I liked the use of the colloquial language, and I felt that the descriptions of the area and the actions of the characters really drew you in.
Throughout the story different aspects of the characters are revealed and the flashbacks give a good idea of the history that brings the characters to the final chapter.
The ending was a bit of a shock, and was one of those scenes that leave you thinking about it for a long time afterwards. This was certainly worth the kindle space and I will definitely be reading more from Wiley Cash.

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Filed under crime fiction

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