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 – 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 Little Bit About Wiley Cash

wiley cashAccording to his website – Wiley holds a B.A. in Literature from the University of North
Carolina-Asheville, an M.A. in English from the University of North
Carolina-Greensboro, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of
Louisiana-Lafayette. He has received grants and fellowships from the Asheville
Area Arts Council, the Thomas Wolfe Society, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo.
His stories have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Roanoke Review and The
Carolina Quarterly, and his essays on Southern literature have appeared in
American Literary Realism, The South Carolina Review, and other

Wiley teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Fiction
and Nonfiction Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. A native of North
Carolina, he and his wife live in Wilmington.

As I stated in a previous post this was Wiley Cash’s debut novel he spoke with a reporter from Vanity Fair about his inspiration for A Land More Kind Than Home.  Interesting stuff!

Related Links:

Nice reviews of A Land More Kind Than Home

Our Next Selection – A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

land more kind than home

We’ve left Iceland and Agnes far behind and now we visit a small western town in North Carolina. On the surface the only thing that A Land More Kind Than Home has in common with Burial Rites is that they were both written by debut novelists.  As we progress perhaps we’ll see if there are any more interesting similarities. I do hope you enjoy getting to meet the characters, and come along with me on a trip to North Carolina.

From the book jacket: “For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to – an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil-but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.”

The Washington Post review.

Wiley Cash’s website has information about A Land More Kind Than Home including, author information, more reviews, interviews and much more.