I'm going to kick off the post with a video that I know has been making the rounds, but it's too hilarious to pass up & since it's the Top Ten Reasons Your Book Club Should Read A Land More Kind Than Home, I'm going to link to the publisher's reader's guide at the end of this post.
Jess Hall and his brother Stump kind of make a habit of snooping around in spite of their mother's warnings. When the brothers witness something they shouldn't, Stump is singled out and suffers the consequences. In their small town of Marshall, people are used to keeping secrets. This time, though, those secrets result in a tragedy worse than anyone could imagine.
What struck me first about A Land More Kind Than Home is the fact that Cash is able to evoke such a strong sense of place with his prose. The book reads quite quickly and there's never a feeling of being bogged down by too much information, and yet the town of Marshall and the people who live there are so carefully built and well represented that it all feels real. In his blurb, Ernest Gaines called Cash's writing "... strong, clean, direct and economical...," and I honestly can't think of a better way to sum it up.
The other thing that got me about this book was the deep sense of sadness I felt in reading it. At times I was almost overwhelmed by how tragic the story is. Which is not to say that Cash spends any real time bombarding the reader with depressing detail, but that the underlying implications of this story are heart wrenching. Cash discusses the inspiration of the story in an interview with Adriana Trigiani. That inspiration -- an autistic boy who died as a result of a "healing" -- really is tough to swallow. I can easily see how Cash would feel compelled to tell that boy's story and I think it's quite impressive how he's done that with this debut.
Each of the narrators gives us a different viewpoint into the story. We begin with Adelaide Lyle who makes it clear that Pastor Chambliss is up to no good. Nine year old Jess Hall is the second narrator we meet and his point of view is sharp and clear yet believably that of a child. The third narrator is Clem Barefield, the local sheriff. Clem has a history with Jess's family, one that comes out in more detail as the story progresses. Together, their pieces make up a whole that is addictive in its readability.
From start to finish, I was amazed with this book. I'd seen previous reviews singing Cash's praises but until I dove in myself, I wasn't really sure about all the hype. Now having read it, I can admit that A Land More Kind Than Home is 100% worthy of all of the praise it's been garnering. This is the kind of book that appeals to a wide range of readers. It's a fast paced and relatively easy read, it's southern fiction featuring a small -- almost insular -- setting, it deals with compelling and thoughtful ideas, and it's extremely well written.
For more stops on the tour visit the official TLC tour page here.
For more on Cash, his work, and upcoming events, check out his official website. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
As promised, here's the link to the Reader's Guide and you can read an excerpt here.