Monday, February 04, 2013

Meghan Review: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

This novel offers a snapshot of a family within the larger context of a small town culture, mixing past and present events through changing viewpoints and sweeping descriptions of rural life. The central story revolves around Jess and Christopher "Stump" Hall, two young brothers who are unintentional witnesses to a secret neither of them fully understand. This secret implicates not only some of the main moral pillars of the town, but also people they love and respect, and it will have consequences neither of them can imagine.

One of the driving narrative forces in the book is the character Jess. Jess is adventurous and curious, and very loving. He acts as both best friend and caretaker to his older brother, Stump, who is a mute and just a little bit slower than the rest of the boys his age. The sections from his viewpoint really stood out to me. The character's voice was realistic, and his confusion about the world around him mirrored my own as I tried to piece together the evidence throughout.

Another viewpoint I appreciated was Adelaide Lyle, an old woman who looks after the children in her own Sunday school, keeping them from the influence of the church pastor she doesn't trust. Her reflections on her own failures and desires interested me because it was longer ranging, and it was an inner adult perspective on the events of Jess' life. She acts as the "sage" figure, commenting on the society she is not fully involved in, standing free enough to make her own judgements.

I would have liked to have had more adult viewpoints, particularly from Jess' parents, and a deeper look into the church whose secret's define the town. Though I understood and could appreciate the desire to keep this mysterious, I was curious throughout and left with more questions than answers. Especially on such a familiar and traditional theme (family secrets, betrayal, redemption) a deeper look could have really made this novel more of a stand-out for me. However, I really liked the rural and pastoral elements of the novel, which reminded me of Willa Cather at times and Laura Ingalls Wilder at others. It was scenic and lovely without being excessive.

Recommended to: people who enjoy a good rural mystery, John Wayne movies, switching viewpoints (think Ann Brashares or Jodi Picoult), and a younger perspective (To Kill a Mockingbird, Secret Life of Bees, Room)

Release Date: January 22, 2013  Pages: 336 Format: ARC (uncorrected proof)
Source: Publisher Publisher: HarperCollins Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Meghan. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @meghanc303

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