Set in rural Madison County, North Carolina in the mid-1980s, this quietly gorgeous novel is most remarkable for its exquisitely rendered sense of place. Mr. Cash not only gives us every kind of sensory news about the community in which he locates his story, but he also paints the cultural environment – the atmospherics – in memorable, thematically enhancing brushstrokes. The major theme is the interaction of religiosity and cruel, cunning evil. Though the flavor of its manifestation is penetratingly Southern, Wiley Cash’s novel leaps beyond its place and time to a profound universality.
The author builds his novel by employing three narrators; that is, three perspectives and three distinct voices processing events that bring their lives into contact. Adelaide (“Addie”) Lyle is a woman well into her eighties who knows the community inside out. As the town midwife, she has had a professional intimacy with almost every family, and she has already outlived many people whom she helped bring into the world. Though she no longer spends time in church, she has taken on the task of giving the church families’ children their religious education. In fact, she has insisted on it and prevailed: in her view, children should not be exposed to what goes on in that church.
The second narrator is nine year old Jess Hall. Wise beyond his years and curious about what goes on around him, Jess is not adverse to risk or responsibility. In fact, he is more or less responsible for his older brother Christopher (nicknamed Stump), a mute who is challenged developmentally. What these boys see, individually and together (they to spy into things that no one is meant to discover), includes the doings in and out of church of the man who ten years earlier took over the church, formerly in the county seat of Marshall, and brought to this more isolated community. . . .
To see the entire review of this highly acclaimed novel, as it appears in Southern Literary Review, click here: January Read of the Month: “A Land More Kind Than Home,” by Wiley Cash