“The living church is made of people, and it can grow sick and break just like people can,” reflects 81-year-old Adelaide Lyle in A Land More Kind Than Home. She is referring to the congregation of the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, in the mountains of North Carolina.
The book hinges on a Sunday service and a mute boy nicknamed Stump who is smothered during an attempted healing. His younger brother – who has a habit of spying on adults and seeing things he can’t fully comprehend, such as their own mother’s ensnarement in the grip of Carson Chambliss, the church’s snake-charming minister – witnesses the accident after peeking through the church’s windows.
The town’s sheriff helps put the pieces of this story together after digging up plenty of dirt on Chambliss, as the threat of a violent showdown between Stump’s father – a good man driven to drink – and the venomous minister builds. Throughout, author Wiley Cash captures the nuances of Appalachian speech, giving his debut novel a chilling authenticity.
From / The National