A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Published by William Morrow
Review copy received at SIBA 2012
From the publisher:
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.
I had been planning on reading this book for YEARS before I picked it up. Literally, years – everyone raved about it when it was published in January 2012, and then at SIBA later that year I picked up a copy of the ARC for the paperback release. I finally got to it last month and while I’m glad I read it, I think I built it up in my head too much and anticipated an incredible novel, and it just didn’t wow me.
Let’s start with what I did like, though. Jess was an exceptional narrator, and I was blown away by how well Cash was able to narrate from the point of view of a preteen boy. What’s so interesting about Jess’s narration is that he’s very innocent, and doesn’t quite get what’s going on with the adults around him – until things become too clear for him at too young an age and he’s forced to grow up really fast. I was fascinated by his abrupt transition into adulthood, but at the same time it was incredibly sad to read as the reasons why this happens to him are heartbreaking.
I also found Cash to be very talented at creating multiple narrators with very distinct voices. Jess, the town midwife Adelaide, and the sheriff Clem all narrate several chapters of the book, and it was so easy to know exactly who was talking every time the narration switched. Also, having these three very different points of view gave the reader a really solid picture of what was going on in this town – and who was on which side of it.
The main issue I had with A Land More Kind Than Home is not a specific issue at all, actually. I liked the book well enough but it just didn’t have that special something to wow me. The characters were good, the story was interesting, the setting was well-drawn, but I just didn’t connect emotionally to the story. And this is a very emotional story, so I should have felt that connection. It was probably just me and my too-high expectations, but sadly I didn’t fall in love with this novel the way that a lot of other bloggers seemed to.
But again, I liked the book! So don’t take my lack of love as a sign of a bad novel. In fact, many readers have adored this book and Cash’s more recent novel, too. So if the story sounds interesting to you, give it a try and let me know your thoughts if you do!