There's a novelist named Wiley Cash who lives in my town. I've never met him but we have at least one friend in common. I recently picked up his first novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, and once I started reading it, it was hard to put down. The story is told from multiple points of view in a way that actually works, and helps, rather than confusing the reader. It's a winding tale about some people in the mountains of North Carolina, and crucially involves religion, big snakes in church, crime, murder, heavy drinking, a family broken apart, and a long road to redemption for one man you'd never have suspected as capable of it. My favorite sentiment in the book, one that the story has richly earned the right to announce, is uttered by an older lady near the end. As she sums things up, she says:
It's a good thing to see that people can heal after they've been broken, that they can change and become something different from what they were before. (305)
This is a hope that we all have, and a truth that many of us can attest. Something is going to break us, if we live long enough, and we can change and heal, given enough time yet to come. And the healing doesn't have to look likely, in order to happen. Redemption is the result of a multitude of forces at work over time. If we give people the chance to turn around, sometimes they will. It's a prime example of the true alchemy in our world.
Wiley's story is rich with a resonance of North Carolina's mountain people. But you might see and hear something similar in any poor, remote area of the country. The words and cadences of the characters reflect even what I heard in the piedmont portion of the state, growing up on the edge of a town in an eight hundred square foot rental house. Its setting strips away a lot of the complexities of modern life, to allow some of the elemental things to shine through. The story of the book will fascinate you, disturb you in good ways, and then lift you up.
I'd recommend it as a great summer read. And now, Wiley Cash already has another book out. So I've got more reading to do.