Cash is a professor of creative writing at Bethany College in West Virginia and this is his first book.
As many of you know most of the books reviewed on this blog fall under the realm of Christian theology or general spirituality and I don't recall whether or not I reviewed a work of fiction lately.
This book is literally a page turner (note: I read it in one day, getting up to get myself a cup of coffee a few times!) as Cash tells a tale of old time country Christian religion combined with murder, mayhem, and mystery. Rather than rely on a single narrator A Land More Kind Than Home has several; an older Church lady, the sheriff, and a young boy. The shift of narrator is refreshing allowing the reader to receive the information via various viewpoints which I enjoyed very much.
One of the main characters in the book is Pastor Chambliss, a man so mean you want to hate, hit, and run out of town. A man so full of evil and darkness that I was reminded of Woody Allen's famous quote, "If Jesus came back today and saw what was done in his name he would keep vomitting and never stop!" I agree. Take this passage for example:
I'd seen people I'd known just about my whole life pick up snakes and drink poison, hold fire to their faces just to see if it would burn them. Holy people too. God fearing folks that hadn't ever acted like that a day in their lives. But Chambliss convinced them it was safe to challenge the will of God. He made them think it was all right to take that dare if they believed. And just about the whole lot of them said, "Here I am, Lord. Come and take me if you mind to it. I'm ready if you are." (page 3)
The story gets better and once it gets going it doesn't stop. The last three or four pages are so beautiful that I underlined most of them and will go back and re-read them again and again and I assume some of this will come out in a sermon or two or maybe three! Unfortunately the truth of the gospel message gets lost on Pastor Chambliss and his ignorant flock, people who follow without discerning the Spirit of God and more unfortunately there are too many pastors today like Pastor Chambliss who preach and teach a similar message. And that's the scary part, that this type of teaching is still around. A teaching of secrecy, of signs, and miracles together with lies and hate and evil.
Cash tells a tall tale with superb narration. The Carolina country twang and dialogue is just enough without overdoing it and the characters are well rounded and real. There is a bit too much backstory on some of them, especially the older Church lady Adelaide which takes away a bit from the story, or at least provides a detour or two.
It is hard to believe that this is Cash's first novel, I cannot wait to read the second!
For all you pastors and priests and Church people go out and buy a copy of A Land More Kind Than Home you won't be disappointed.