A town’s sordid secrets force it to spin out of control.
Each narrator in Wiley Cash’s debut novel attempts to redeem a disappearing world through the act of storytelling. This near-mythical land, set along the French Broad River in the Appalachian Mountains, is frozen in time, fiercely clinging to ancient customs.
A Land More Kind Than Home is a dark tale that unfolds in the Madison County of Cash’s childhood, a community between Asheville and the Pisgah National Forest.
Cash’s attachment to North Carolina is unmistakable in his evocation of Appalachian detail, but his novel is not intended as a comforting homage to Southern ways. From the first page, Cash depicts an isolated community afflicted with self-deception and denial.
This fast-paced psychological thriller chronicles the intersecting lives of a tobacco farmer, a mountain spinster, a small-town sheriff, and a charismatic preacher — their fates linked to an autistic child who has never uttered a word in his life.
The novel’s narrative arc traces the community’s fatalistic existence as it spins out of control. Life here is booby-trapped with secrets and pathologies that destroy the characters from within: a pastor’s hidden criminal past, a congregant’s adulterous obsession, the silent shame attached to autism.
Ever-present in the background of this violent folktale are the everlasting textures, scents, and sounds of the mountains: coves, hollers, pokeweed, and countless other details that bind a people to their land.
William Morrow, Publisher. 2012. 320 pages, hardback, $24.99.