"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review #3: A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash

The library bookstore is my secret addiction. I don't get to go often (at least, not in my county, what with the powers that be cutting library hours to a ridiculous degree), but when I do go, I load up. And I would say that of the books I pick up, I have about a 50% success rate. I donate the rest back, which results in a vicious circle where I've been known to re-buy previous rejects. (Yeah, I know.) Anyway, of that 50% success rate, about half of those are guilty pleasure romance novels that are easily read but easily forgotten, and the other half are knock it out of the park fantastic finds. A Land More Kind than Home is one of the latter.

Set in the shadows of the North Carolina mountains in the mid-1980s, the novel is told from three different first-person perspectives: a nine-year-old boy, the town's midwife, and the middle aged county sheriff. It shouldn't work, but it does, and it does so beautifully. Each narrator has a different thread of the same story, and Cash deftly weaves the tale together, sometimes veering off in to the past, but never in a rambling way (I'm looking at you, Richard Russo). Cash allows the climax of the story to begin in the sheriff's voice, and then at the last minute, smoothly hands it over to the young boy, simultaneously softening the blow of the novel's penultimate scene and devastating the reader even more than had the reader witnessed it from the sheriff's perspective.

I want to be careful what I say about the story, because I fear that even a summary will give too many things away, and this is a novel you need to just immerse yourself in and let the words, and the story, wash over you. This is a tale of a small southern town, its residents ripped apart by a young boy's needless death, a nefarious and shady preacher man, a sheriff haunted by twenty-year-old grief, and an old man left with nothing but a second chance. I would compare Cash to Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) or John Hart (The Last Child), and A Land More Kind Than Home is a powerful addition to Southern literature.

I've heard it said before that those who don't learn from the past are bound to repeat it, and I just don't know what I think about that. I figure I don't have too much use for it. The past will just weigh on you if you spend too much time remembering.

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