Audiobook Review: A Land More Kind Than Home

Another superb Southern debut!!

Good + evil + snakes + two brothers = an excellent read!

It is just as JC Patterson, writing for the Madison County Herald, has to say, “His debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, will grab you in its clutches like a boxed-up rattlesnake at a church healing.”

Amen to that! It opens with a hiss and a rattle and ends with a bang!

Wiley Cash’s writing is simply marvelous. He pays such close attention to those finer details, giving you the sights, the sounds, even the smells of the deep South. My very favourite part, aside from hearing about the sounds of the crickets, the smell of the mud, the look of the Blue Gum trees, the darkness of the sky and the sound of thunder in the distance, was the description of the hundreds of snake skins being rustled by the breeze coming through the slats on the barn wall and that sound being compared to the sound that dead corn stalks make swaying in the wind.

I was very, very pleased (and so impressed with) I listened to this on audio.  It is superb on audio as there are three different narrators voicing the three perspectives from which this story is told. Fantastic narration by all three and truly, truly makes this novel sing! This audiobook was the winner of the  J.L.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award. Absolutely worthy of the award! Mr. Cash’s book itself is worthy of the heaps of praise that it is receiving.

Adelaide: is the first person you hear from when opening A Land More Kind Than Home. She is the elderly midwife & moral historian in town. Addie is whom provides all the background and history and is the one to know straight away what evil lurks inside Chambliss.

Lorna Raver is exceptional as Adelaide Lyle! Those first few chapters grab you with the story she starts to tell you and with that amazing voice!

Jess: Jess is the 7-year-old brother to Christopher, or Stump. Stump is a mute autistic boy that has never spoken a word in his life. Jess witnesses the tragic loss of his brother one afternoon and the subsequent crumbling of his family because of those events. The most touching moment for me (well outside of Stump’s death) was when Jess takes down Stumps “Quiet Box” (a box that his mother gave him to go off and sit with when he was feeling overwhelmed) from the closet and finds a little treasure Jess made him for Christmas resting on top of everything else in the box. So, so, so touching. The guilt with which Jess must live with after everything that happens to Stump will make you ache.

Jess is narrated by Nick Sullivan and not only does he do a fantastic job of becoming Jess as a 7-year-old (never ever once are you annoyed at a “boyish” voice being read by a grown man) I felt he brought the voice of the evil Pastor Chambliss to life with such greatness!

Clem: Sheriff Clem Barefield, still recovering from his own painful past and working to get to the bottom of this tragedy.  Mark Bramhall narrates Clem and you can just SEE with amazing clarity what this old southern sheriff looks like.

And of course, at the heart and centre of this story is Stump and Chambliss. Innocence and goodness vs evil.

This is an amazing debut (this is his first book??!!) – fine, fine, fine writing – I will be very interested in reading more from Mr. Cash! You can find more about him, and read those piles of praise on his site: He’s on Facebook and Twitter too! He’s also making the rounds at book signings and readings in the South – if you’re nearby I hear he’s a real gem to listen to in person!

A definite Literary Hoarder’s approved book! If you are interested in reading other fine Southern reads, I highly recommend the following:

1.) If you want to stare evil straight in the face (and have nightmares!) once more like you do with Chambliss here above, you must, must pick up The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, by Jenny Wingfield. This is a must read!

2.) Another excellent Southern debut novel that came out this year and also deals with the incredible bond between two brothers is The Lost Saints of Tennessee, by Amy Franklin-Willis . You definitely will not be disappointed in this one either!

3.) And of course, the great one: Pat Conroy. His most recent, South of Broad is another goodie too!!

4.) If you’re looking to listen to a fine, fine audiobook about life in the South, I highly recommend listening to The Dry Grass of August, read by Karen White. Excellent!

Review: Glass Boys

Okay, insert sound of breath being expelled forcefully from your gut. An anxious and disturbing read for certain. But a really very good one too.

Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads) When Eli Fagan discovers the secret his eleven-year-old stepson has hidden in an old pickle jar, he is filled with blinding rage. As he destroys the jar’s contents, brothers Roy and Lewis Trench, in a drunken prank, stumble into Eli’s yard, and their poor timing costs Roy his life. Though the courts rule the death a tragic accident, the event opens a seam of hate between the two families of Knife’s Point, Newfoundland. Powerfully written, with vivid and unflinching prose, Glass Boys is an utterly riveting, deeply moving saga of the persistence of evil and the depths and limits of love.

I’ve only read two books from Newfoundland writers, Glass Boys, and The Bishop’s Man but I’ve found they both write in this distinct, dark, and secretive manner. Glass Boys is beautiful writing, extremely thought provoking but very disturbing though. I did of course feel more anxiety when reading Glass Boys and was by far more disturbed, but I at times thought back on The Bishop’s Man and how both authors would write about a situation, not fully coming out with the truth in it, but leaving much up to reader speculation.

What did Garrett have in that jar? (well, we find out) What were Wilda’s past secrets? What does Eli really mean when he takes his wife so brutally each time saying “this is what I am, not the other thing”? The reader is left to sort through these hidden thoughts and fill in the answers on their own for much of the story.

The Newfoundland which Lundrigan writes of is dark, depressed, backwater and filled with abuse. And troubling boys. Oh those troubled boys.  In the very beginning, I felt sad and sorry for Garrett, as I thought Eli quite cruel, but as he grew, as the story evolved, he changed, and oh my how difficult it became to feel anything but distaste for him. Deeply, deeply disturbed boy. (I do have to say I liked how she tied up this story between Eli and Garrett towards the end.)

“Before Eli stepped forward, he felt the very air change. Heavy now. As though weighted with something forbidden. Something ugly. He believed Lucifer was lingering around the boy, drawing circles through the air, and his heart knocked hard against his ribs as he rushed out from the brush.”

This novel is not necessarily strong in plot, if that’s what you’re after, but rather one that delves very deeply in to these boy’s lives, their minds, their family situation, abuse, their environment, the consequences of life and how it shapes them in to the men they become. 

Her writing is both stark and yet in many places quite beautiful.

“To know the blood tie had been severed, the mind tie might follow.” (Wilda)

Stark, yet great.

“As he moved over the earth, dragged by his brother, Melvin was aware of something new expanding within him. Something outside the realm of childhood. A loathing, deep and cold. Not for the snowflakes themselves, but the spaces in between.”

“could smell the lie of sugar, and the truth of grown-up sweat.”

I’m quite anxious to talk to Nicole on Tuesday night (November 29) to ask her what the inspiration was for writing this book? Why? It’s a very exciting thing being able to talk to the author personally about their books…if you can join us, remember to register over at Opinionless and we’ll hear from you on Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

Others involved in the Opinionless book reading have already posted their reviews…and yes, as they have said, it is difficult to put one particular rating on this. She does a splendid job of creating anxiety, disturbing the hell out of you, but there is sadness and tenderness as well, there is beauty in her writing. Many parts I wanted to mark down as they seemed quite lyrical. But…huge expelling of breath for the disturbing stories/lives these boys have. But she wonderfully captures the strong bond between brothers and the ending/combining/bringing together of the scattered stories and lives was perfect. And Toby couldn’t have said anything more perfect to Wilda than what he did. Bang on baby!