Thursday, June 28, 2012
A Land More Kind than Home
Jess is a nine year old boy with a beloved older brother Stump, who is autistic. Jess and his family live in rural North Carolina, where the boys and their mother attend a charismatic church led by a former meth addict turned prison preacher named Carson Chambliss. One day, he decides that Stump should be healed and, as Jess watches from outside through the boards of the building, proceeds to accidentally kill his brother during the service. This tragedy causes a series of events that are narrated by Jess, the town sheriff, and the midwife, Adelaide, which detail a family’s spiral into tragedy and despair.
This psychological suspense is dark, disturbing, and bleak. The gothic setting of a backwoods country church and its sinister leader practically drips with foreboding and foreshadowing. Jess is a likeable and naïve narrator whose youth and inexperience add a measure of unreliability to his words. Sheriff Barefield, on the other hand, is a man of few words, yet much is conveyed and understood in those short chapters. It is mostly through Adelaide, a generous and wise narrator, that the reader discovers the secret that Stump witnessed, which resulted in so much sorrow and heartache.
Although the plot is compelling, the characters interesting and the setting unusual, I found this novel to be too dark and depressing to enjoy. We all know that humans can be sad, miserable creatures who often contribute to their own downfall, but the evil that Pastor Chambliss brings to this family and town overwhelms the plot, overshadowing any hope of redemption or justice. Because this character is so one-dimensional, it was difficult for me to relate to the book, yet I appreciated some of its qualities and would recommend it to the right reader who was in the mood for a dark, bleak, and skilled portrayal of a tragedy.
This is the author’s first novel.
Other titles you may enjoy:
Long Lost by David Morrell (2002)
Successful architect Brad Denning finds his perfect existence shattered when a man claiming to be his long-lost brother kidnaps his wife and son, forcing Brad to find his family before a dark secret from his past is exposed.
Places in the Dark by Thomas Cook (2000)
Cal Chase watches his younger brother William follow his wandering soul, never expecting him to find true love, but when a stunning woman walks into William's life, Cal begins to worry about his safety as well as his heart.
The Barrens by Rosamund Smith (2001)
Haunted by the memory of a murder he witnessed as a child, Matt McBride becomes erratic and obsessed with guilt after the disappearance of another young woman--a woman he knows too intimately for a married man--making himself a target for the real killer.