Dan W's Reviews > A Land More Kind Than Home

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
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Jul 02, 12

Read from June 18 to July 02, 2012

Told through three voices A Land More Kind Than home weaves together the tale of rural town whose church is host to some mysterious doings which lead to unfortunate events for the townsfolk. The story slowly unfolds from the viewpoint of a boy, the town's sheriff, and self-determined old woman. Each knows a little more than they should about the local church and each must play their part leading to the unavoidable showdown after the evil antagonist crosses a line.

Sounds great, right?

Not so much. This story could have been powerfully told as short story with a single narrator, but in book form gets a little windy and has whole chapters that I found tangential to the plot. Should I tell you about them? Well, I could, but that would probably ruin it for people who haven't read it yet. I will say this, I found the old woman's character to be not as important to the plot in relation to the air time she got in the book. Also because the telling moved from voice to voice I found it hard to build a relationship with the characters and experience their relationships with each other. The sum total of that made the book feel like we were going through the motions without the powerful emotional response real empathy creates. Instead when tragedy strikes I felt the shock of seeing a horrific accident without the grief of knowing the victims and their family. Which is what good books do. They let us know people, and when those people experience joy or sorrow we know it too, as if we knew them.

This is style is perfected in To Kill A Mockingbird. Southern town tied in political knots, a child faces very adult problems and tries to overcome. I don't know where this book is trying to take us. Is it about the lifetime effects of abuse some characters suffered as children? Is it about the tenacity of the old folk to make it through the hard times? Is it about the innocent children trying to understand the confusing and sometimes terrifying realities of adult life? Each one of these themes is rich enough alone for a book. If you put all three together you'd think it would triple the intensity, but it doesn't. Each is simultaneously thinned to fit then overinflated making for lots and lots of pages without any depth. The pains of the characters are single notes that never quite harmonize into a song.

Another problem I had getting into the book was the use of evil. We never really got to know the antagonist or understand his motives. Since he develops a relationship with a lead character this would really flesh out the emotional realities and give them motivations and complexity. Instead the antagonist plays more the role of a man in a dark cape in a silent film, or worse, the bad guy in any given Steven King novel. The antagonist is simply evil, does evil things, and you shouldn't think much more about it. Are you still thinking about the antagonist as a person? Really? Don't, the antagonist is just evil. Period. Eventually they will get theirs and that should be good enough for you. Stop thinking about it!

Was this, as the title and plot summary would have us believe, the tale of a harsh and unforgiving rural environment that weighs on its resilient but flawed residents who've been taken by a baddie? Sort of, but not really. It's more a thinnish plot that we sort of hum along with to its brief and mostly unsatisfying ending. Lose the character development and physical descriptions (what feels like filler in this book anyway) and keep the scenes and dialog and you get a screenplay that would make a decent thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones. That's about it.

It does have some good qualities, and the writing is better than most best sellers. I can't recommend anyone run out and buy the hardcover, but if you picked it up for a few dollars as a trade paperback it's as good a book as any. You could read a lot worse.
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