An Answer to a Question

As promised our discussion of A Land More Kind Than Home has ended but I’m still here.

I’ve had a question that I think all of you might be interested in hearing (reading) my response.

The comment and question.

“The novel wasn’t anything I would have picked up on my own, but I really enjoyed it. How do you choose your books?”

high fiveMy initial answer was “Excellent” with an internal high-five to myself.  Why?  My not so short answer – I love to read (shocking I know), but not just any book will do.  The book must do so many things:

  • Be well written.  I’m an eye roller.  Have you ever begun a book and right off the bat something is off?  If I get a few pages in and I’m already rolling my eyes or find myself thinking about how many household chores need to be done I might as well put the book down and walk away.
  • Transport me away from my everyday existence. I mentioned in the discussion of Burial Rites that I thought that Hannah Kent did a fantastic job of painting a picture of life in Iceland in 1862.  I may never get to visit Iceland but I got a feel for the atmosphere, and quite frankly after reading the novel Iceland has made it onto my “want to visit” list.
  • Make me feel for the characters.  I don’t have to love them, but they must feel real and show depth.

Beyond the criteria above, I love to find that gem sitting on the shelf that hasn’t caught on with a wider audience.  There are so many great books but some I consider “orphan” books. They haven’t been widely reviewed, haven’t had a three page spread in the New York Times, and for whatever reason, in my opinion, seem to be left out to dry by their publisher.  This may not have been the case with Burial Rites or A Land More Kind Than Home.  I honestly don’t remember, but there have been cases recently that made me scratch my head.  The one that comes to mind is A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon.  It was truly a different and well written novel, but seemed to be passed over for other authors and novels that in my opinion were inferior.  You may see it here in the future – I haven’t decided.

I do read more popular books, but I probably have read them before they became popular. My problem with choosing a “best seller” is that they’ve been talked out by the time I can get enough copies together to do a discussion.  I considered doing The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (congratulations on the Pulitzer), but beyond the number of pages, everyone has read it and discussed it to death.  That just doesn’t interest me. Having just said that if any of you want me to consider a book that has reached that level of popularity I will.  All you need do is ask, suggest, or post a comment!

Now that I have bored you with my overly long response I will allow you to get back to reading.  Beware though the next post will announce our new selection.


A Land More Kind Than Home – (Spoiler Alert)

MP900341322[1]Today we’re going to finish the discussion of  A Land More Kind Than Home.  We’ve seen the death of both Chambliss and Ben in that startling scene at the Hall place.  Julie and Chambliss were set to run off, but Julie decided that she wanted to retrieve her belongings (no mention of taking Jess with her.) Ben greets them on the porch with a shotgun and blows Chambliss away. Having had a modicum of sense, Julie has called and requested the police to be present, but Clem arrives too late to save Chambliss. Clem does try to get Ben to put down his weapon.  Ben too angry to hear reason is shot and killed.  Julie injured by the shotgun blast that Ben sent into the car recovers and runs off.

We need to talk about Julie!  A few chapters ago Adelaide Lyle tried to explain why Julie is so fervent in her beliefs.  Should her behavior be forgiven because of her religious beliefs?  Do you believe that her motives for bringing Stump to that service were pure?  Why doesn’t she consider taking Jess with her?  How could she leave him behind? What do you think were the motives of Pastor Chambliss?

Julie knew that there was going to be trouble.  What motivated her to go back to the house? Was what happened inevitable?

Julie, Jess and Adelaide knew things about what had gone on that might have prevented the deaths of Stump, Ben and Chambliss, yet all three have survived.  There was plenty of blame to go around, but do you think that justice was served?  Did you get a sense that any of them took a lesson from the mistakes that were made?

After the death of Chambliss Addie claimed, “But in the Old Testament, when God’s chosen people called out, “Save us, Lord!” He heard them, and they were saved.  He was there for them because they believed.”  Do you think any of the characters in the novel were saved?

Clem and Jimmy were each instrumental in the deaths of each others son.  Why do you think Wiley Cash wrote the events this way?  Was it just poetic justice?

I’ve finished with the book and my portion of the discussion.  I hope that you enjoyed the novel and the discussion. Even after reading it for a second time I still enjoyed it. I found aspects that I could reflect upon that I missed the first time. Please comment below if you would like to share your thoughts on the book.

While we might be finished with A Land More Kind Than Home the discussion continues.  I’ll be back to announce our next selection and other book related topics.

Stay tuned!



A Land More Kind Than Home – Discussion

land more kind than homeI’ve gotten to the denouement. Jess has had to confess to his dad about the water barrel and why it was broken.  More violence is about to ensue, but what I’m really pondering is the dissolution of the marriage between Julie and Ben.  Miss. Lyle has described the divide between them

“It was like a tree had sprung up between them, a tree that was just too thick to throw their arms around… Julie looked around and saw that she needed her faith to help her understand God’s plan for that little boy and for her family.”

Julie found her comfort and family in church and Ben wanted no part of any father (heavenly or Earthly.) What do you think of Julie and the decisions that brought her to Chambliss? Do you think it inevitable or were there avenues and decisions that she could have made that would have changed her course?

Now don’t misunderstand me I don’t think that Julie was entirely at fault.  The dissolution of a marriage is rarely one-sided.  For most of his adult life Ben has tried to be a different kind of father than Jimmy.  Do you think that this benefited his marriage?  Do you think that this may have played a part in Julie’s dissatisfaction and then betrayal of Ben?

We’re coming to the end of the discussion please let me know if there are aspects of the novel that you would still like to cover.

Our next selection is very different and will be announced shortly.  Stay tuned.


A Land More Kind Than Home – Discussion (Spoiler Alert)

land more kind than homeWiley Cash introduces us to two pivotal characters – Ben Hall (Jess and Stump’s dad) and Ben’s father, Jimmy Hall at about the midway point of the novel.

We first learn about Ben and Jimmy Hall during the recollection of Clem Barfield as he’s preparing to investigate the death of Stump.  He remembers how Ben was afraid of going home after being caught drunk and disorderly.

    “I could see fear in Ben’s face and I could hear it in his voice.  I’d seen his eyes blacked up a couple of times, and I knew that whatever beating his old man had put on his wife that drove her to leave him he’d also put on Ben more than once.” (page 96 in the paperback edition.)

When we meet Jimmy after the brawl at Miss Lyle’s house he has been put in charge of getting Jess home.  How does this version of Jimmy reconcile with the Jimmy that Clem depicts? What do you think Wiley Cash is trying to convey about inter-family relationships?

A Land More Kind Than Home – Let’s Talk About the Setting

MP900385621[1]As you can see I love the ability to take an armchair tour the world through books.  In our last novel we learned a little bit about Iceland.  I truly do feel that Hannah Kent gave us a terrific sense of place and time in Burial Rites.

Are you getting that sense of place from Wiley Cash?

The setting is a very small town in North Carolina.  Do you think that the events depicted could have occurred in a less remote and closed off community? 

Is the setting vital in the storytelling?  What about the community might have allowed Chambliss and his beliefs to take root?  

Would you like to find out more about North Carolina? 

The Jericho Public Library has a database that can help. America the Beautiful offers state-by-state coverage includes geography, history, economy, government and cultural highlights. You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit, click on the “Databases” tab and then click on “Adults.”  You can find the database either on the A-Z listing or click on the link for Encyclopedias & Dictionaries. You will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

A Land More Kind Than Home (Spoiler Alert)

land more kind than homeWell, I’ve made it past the death of Stump. Even though I did see it coming the “wrongness” of it still stings.  We as the reader know why Chambliss needed to silence a boy who had no words. I had forgotten that during the laying on of hands at the afternoon service many participants believed that he had spoken his first word “Mama.”  How might the events of the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?

Just after the death we meet the final “voice” of the book, Clem Barefield.  Beyond being the Sherriff of Madison County for 25 years Wiley Cash utilizes his voice as that of the outsider.  How does this impact the way he sees this place and its people?

There are going to be many revelations and much action coming up.  I hope you’re enjoying your visit to the mountains of North Carolina.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with the group.

A Land More Kind Than Home – A Personal Question.

????????????This is the second time I’m reading A Land More Kind Than Home.  I’m re-reading the novel along with you but I’m taking my time.  I’ve gotten to page 79 and am reluctant to go further. For those of you who have gotten past that I’m sure you understand.

With that thought in mind. Have you ever gotten to a point in a book where the event that had been foreshadowed is about to occur and you felt a sense of dread turning the page?  Can you share that with the all of us out here in the blogosphere?  Don’t worry we’re all in this together.

A Land More Kind Than Home – Discussion Questions (Spoiler Alert)

I realize that many of you might not be too deep into the story, but there have already been events that I need to discuss.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The novel begins with Adelaide Lyle. She’s a woman of deep faith but has stepped away from the church because of an event that occurred eleven years prior.  Miss Molly Jameson died from two snake bites during a service led by Chambliss. It wasn’t the death that rattled Adelaide’s faith. It was what occurred afterward when the men of the congregation removed Molly from the church and left her outside her home to make it appear that she died there.  When she confronts Chambliss a week later she tells him that she’s done with the church “A church ain’t no place to hide the truth, and a church that does ain’t no place for me.”  Why does she keep the secret?  She’s concerned about the children and wants to keep them safe so she takes them out of the church, but children grow into adults who will probably attend the church.  What do you think that she believes she’s accomplishing?

There are passages where the reader is left to wonder how the church is able to hide their secrets and suffer no consequences.  Chambliss admits to Adelaide that he removed Molly’s body because “Besides us, nobody in this world needs to know anything at all.  It ain’t going to do her a lick of good, and trouble is all it’s going to bring us.”  Adelaide mentions the newspaper in the windows of the church “Even though the newspaper in the windows kept folks from seeing inside the church, I figure everybody in town knew what was going on,  and wouldn’t be long before they had the law down there trying to break it up.”  When the story begins the church has been there for decades – Do you think the community truly does know what’s going on in the church?  Why don’t they try to intercede?  Is there anything that could have been done?

Keep reading and please let me know what you’re thinking!

Ripped From the Headlines

land more kind than homeI could never have imagined when I chose A Land More Kind Than Home for the book discussion that there would be an event that would bring events similar to  the novel into the news.

On February 17, 2014 it was widely reported that a well know snake handling minister, Jamie Coots (think Carson Chambliss), had died from a bite he received during a service.

Read the reports from ABC News and CNN.

Another blog that discuss the death of Jamie Coots and the events in A Land More Kind Than Home.