In his startling debut novel, Wiley Cash explores the backwoods mountain country of North Carolina and allows an eccentric cast of characters to do th...moreIn his startling debut novel, Wiley Cash explores the backwoods mountain country of North Carolina and allows an eccentric cast of characters to do the talking, including one of the most memorable villains I’ve met this year: an ex-meth-cooker-turned-charismatic-pastor. A Land More Kind Than Home is the story of two brothers, Jess and Stump Hall, whose mother is under the spell of a fanatical, snake-handling pastor. In many ways this is a timeless tale of good vs. evil, forgiveness and revenge, redemption and self-destruction. Reminiscent of—but not quite the same caliber as—Larry Brown’s novel Father and Son(, which is a great compliment).
A Land More Kind Than Home has three narrators—Adelaide Lyle, an elderly woman who is more culpable for what happens throughout the novel than perhaps she believes (which strips her last section in the novel of its power, in my opinion, because she doesn’t own up to her own guilt and the town's guilt for not speaking up against zealotry); Jess Hall, the nine-year-old brother of Stump and son of Julie and Ben; and Sheriff Clem Barefield, a man who has his own troubles with forgiveness (and an itchy trigger finger).
Although at times its narrative voices sound a little too similar, although its last page, for some reason, really pissed me off, A Land More Kind Than Home is a must-read Southern novel from a novelist I’ll be keeping my good eye on.
In PURE, Julianna Baggott concocted a surreal riddle for her readers to unravel. So what are you waiting for? She has created dual worlds—outside and...moreIn PURE, Julianna Baggott concocted a surreal riddle for her readers to unravel. So what are you waiting for? She has created dual worlds—outside and inside of the Dome—and an unforgettable cast of characters—Pressia and Partridge, Lyda and El Capitan—each with his or her own motive and mission, each struggling to discover what it means to live and what it means to be alive after the Detonations. This is a novel of many layers: a speculative account of a not-too-far-fetched future; a story of love and betrayal; a dark postapocalyptic novel with elements of fantasy and science fiction; a tale of family dissolution and reconciliation; a coming-of-age story in a world where actually coming of age can get you killed.
WARNING: If you crack open this novel in the evening, you might as well lock the door and brew a pot of coffee. Draw the curtains. Dim the lights. Prepare yourself to see the sunrise through the blinds. Embark on a marathon tour of the Deadlands and Meltlands. Pressia will be your tour guide. The sky is clotted with ash. Use a scarf to cover your nose and mouth when you breathe. Watch out for the OSR, a mysterious security force that patrols the streets and snatches miscreants from alleys and bedrooms and barbershops. Meet the neighbors. Be polite. Don’t stare at the dog that’s attached to its master’s knee. It’s rude to stare. Out here everyone is scarred from the Detonations, and some no longer even look human. They are missing arms and legs. They have extra arms and legs. And extra heads too. What did they used to say in the Before: Two brains are better than one, right? Their bodies are fused with bits of machinery and with the playthings of children and with the children themselves. But they are still human. They have feelings and emotions. They are our brothers and sisters.
Or perhaps you might rather take your vacation in the Dome—the dystopian, insular society cut off from the outside world. Partridge will show you around. Breathe the filtered air. Learn the filtered lessons in classrooms. Make friends with the Pures, so that you don’t have to stare at imperfect faces or confront uncomfortable truths. You can be like everyone else. You can join the herd. (Sound familiar?)
If you don’t smoke cigarettes, you might need to bum one once you put down this novel. It’s that good. Read it. You'll see. Honestly, when I looked outside this morning and saw that the sky was gray with thunderclouds, I thought: Good God, it’s happening! But it was only rain. Not even acid rain. Mexican petunias were blooming in my backyard. Two blue jays were perched on the picket fence, trilling. Real birds! Not made of wire! (I think) What a relief! Apparently, I’m still living in the Before. (less)