Set near Marshall, NC, a land more kind than home, tells the story of a troubled family in 1986 in this small mountainous town north of Asheville. From the perspective of three characters, Wiley’s words fold themselves over and over to form one layer of effortless dialogue. Although not heavily laden with descriptive narrative, I could picture Adelaide, the town’s midwife, the sheriff just trying to do his job, and ten year-old Jess, just trying to protect his brother. Central to the plot is Stump, Jess’ older brother, mute from birth, inquisitive, innocent and thought “in need of fixin’.”
Wiley knows how to write a good first novel. He has combined all the elements of good vs. evil, forgivable characters and those for whom there is no pardon, a tangible event vs. an underlying ambiguous theme. And he placed them in a setting that only those few who live there could truly understand—backwoods Southern towns. You read through the pages wrestling with the poverty, naiveté of people and places. And you are stunned by how pervasive and hypnotic the cruelty one man can be on a community. A terrible thing happens under the guise of religion. Where do they all go from there? A terrible thing happens to a child. What should they all do?
a land more kind than home is what I would call a quick read. It is well thought out and well written—a page turning slice of real life that we try to pretend didn’t or doesn’t still exist. Wiley offers enough description to allow readers to create their own images. He uses enough dialect so as not to bog down or stilt the flow. You know it’s in the South. You know it’s small town. You know it’s even smaller people. And you don’t need to be told word by word.
When presented with an author and a “you’ve got to read this,” I always start at the beginning. I enjoy seeing where this particular author has been, where s/he began. I wasn’t disappointed.