Land More Kind Than Home (Cash)

A Land More Kind Than Home
Wiley Cash, 2012
HarperCollns
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062088239



Summary
For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when you get caught spying on grown-ups.

Adventurous and precocious, Jess is 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 repercussions. It's a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he's not prepared.

He now knows that a new understanding can bring not only danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance.

Told by resonant and evocative characters, A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1977-78
Where—Gastonia, North Carolina, USA
Education—B.A., M.A., University of North Carolina;
   Ph.D., University of Louisiana
Currently—lives in Wilmington, North Carolina


Wiley Cash is from western North Carolina, a region that figures prominently in his fiction. A Land More Than Home, his first novel was published in 2012, followed by This Dark Road to Mercy in 2014.

Wiley holds a B.A. in Literature from the University of North Carolina-Asheville, an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (where he studied under author Ernest Gaines).

He has received grants and fellowships from the Asheville Area Arts Council, the Thomas Wolfe Society, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. His stories have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Roanoke Review and Carolina Quarterly, and his essays on Southern literature have appeared in American Literary Realism, South Carolina Review, and other publications.

Wiley lives with his wife and two daughters in Wilmington, North Carolina. He serves as the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA. (Adapted from previous and current bios on the author's website. Retrieved 10/4/2017.)



Book Reviews
Nine-year-old Jess Hall [is] one of the narrators of Wiley Cash's mesmerizing first novel…and it's his voice that we carry away from this intensely felt and beautifully told story.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times

Mesmerizing...only Jess knows why his autistic older brother died on the very day he was taken into the church, and it’s his voice that we carry away from this intensely felt and beautifully told story.
New York Times Book Review

[C]ompelling…Like his fellow North Carolinian Ron Rash, Cash adeptly captures the rhythms of Appalachian speech…The story has elements of a thriller, but Cash is ultimately interested in how unscrupulous individuals can bend decent people to their own dark ends, often by invoking the name of God.
Steve Yarbrough—The Washington Post

Wiley Cash’s novel embeds a tender coming-of-age story within a suspense-filled thriller.... [A] clear-sighted, graceful debut.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

So beautifully written that you’ll be torn about how fast to read it. This is great, gothic Southern fiction.
NPR

Absorbing.... Cash uses well-placed flashbacks to flesh out his characters...and to illuminate a familiar truth of Southern lit: Many are the ways that fathers fail their sons.
Entertainment Weekly

A lyrical, poignant debut.... In the mode of John Hart, Tom Franklin, and early Pat Conroy, A Land More Kind Than Home explores the power of forgiveness [and] the strength of family bonds.
Florida Sun-Sentinel

A Land More Kind Than Home is a powerfully moving debut that reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Good old-fashioned storytelling.... With murder, religion, infidelity, domestic abuse, guns, whiskey and snake handling, Land is rich in unstable relationships and beautiful tragedy.
Ploughshares

Cash’s debut about a town gripped by a menacing preacher has the timeless qualities of the Old Testament...[a] very good book.
Daily Beast


Cash’s debut novel is a chilling descent into the world of religious frenzy in small town North Carolina. At the core of the book is a mysterious and demonic pastor, Carson Chambliss, an ex-con and born-again believer who uses snakes and poison to prove God’s love: he seduces the town with raucous church meetings where they dance, heal, and speak in tongues until one Sunday a mute child dies during evening service.... [T]he book is compelling, with an elegant structure and a keen eye for detail, matched with compassionate attention to character. The languid atmosphere seduces, and Cash’s fine first effort pulls the reader into a shadowy, tormented world where wolves prowl in the guise of sheep. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates.
Publishers Weekly


As lyrical, beautiful, and uncomplicated as the classic ballads of Appalachia, Cash's first novel is a tragic story of misplaced faith and love gone wrong.... [A]n autistic child becomes the victim of a special healing service, and the local sheriff launches an investigation. Told in three voices...the tragedy unfolds and compounds upon itself as the backgrounds of the major players are revealed and each reacts as conscience and faith demand. Verdict: ...Cash captures the reader's imagination...and maintains the wonder of the tale through to the coda of faith and affirmation. —Thomas Kilpatrick, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Library Journal


Up beyond Asheville, near where Gunter Mountain falls into Tennessee, evil has come to preach in a house of worship where venomous snakes and other poisons are sacraments. Cash's debut novel explores Faulkner-O'Connor country, a place where folks endure a hard life by clinging to God's truths echoing from hardscrabble churches.... As lean and spare as a mountain ballad, Cash's novel resonates perfectly, so much so that it could easily have been expanded to epic proportions. An evocative work about love, fate and redemption.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Think about the epigraph the author chose to open the book and from which the novel's title derives. What is the significance of this particular quote? How does it set the novel's tone and mood? Explain what the title—"a land more kind than home"—signifies.

2. The novel is told from three characters' perspectives. How does this add to the story and deepen it as it unfolds? How might it be different if it had been told from only one of the character's point of view?

3. Talk about Carson Chambliss. Describe his character. Why does he have such a magnetic hold on his congregation, and especially on Julie? Is Julie a good mother? Can you understand why she behaved the way she did? Do you think she understood the truth of her son, Stump's fate? Why is Addie so afraid of him?

4. How might the events of the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?

5. Describe this small North Carolina town in which the story takes place. What is it like? How does its size and remoteness influence the lives of those who call it home? Sheriff Clem Barfield is not native to Madison County. How does this impact the way he sees this place and its people?

6. How can religion uplift a person's soul? How can it be corrupting influence? Julie considers herself to be a "good Christian woman." What do you think? Whether you are Christian or not, religious or not, what is your definition of a "good Christian?" Is anyone in the novel virtuous, and if so, in what way?

7. Why did Addie pull the children out of Chambliss's services? Did she have any other options?

8. When Jess asks his grandpa if Stump will be able to talk in heaven, Jimmy tells him, "Of course he will. We'll all be able to talk. And we'll be able to understand each other." What does his answer reveal about him and the world? What is he trying to teach Jess?

9. Think about Jimmy Hall. What kind of relationship does she have with his son? What about with Sheriff Barefield?

10. Can this novel be compared to a Shakespearean tragedy? If so, in what ways? Think about various stories and proverbs from the Bible. How are they reflected in the story?

11. What role does nature and the natural world play in the novel?

12. Addie believes that this place and its people will be saved in the wake of tragedy. Do you believe in salvation? What role does forgiveness play in this story? Do you think people can change for the better? What about Jimmy Hall? How do the novel's events impact his relationship with the sheriff and with his grandson, Jess?

13. Think about the novel's themes: revenge, faith, betrayal, goodness and evil, forgiveness and understanding. Choose a character and show how these themes are demonstrated through his or her life.
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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