Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wiley Cash Excels in the Sophomore Experience

The cliche that "everyone has at least one good book in 'em" is laughable at best.  Most writers will tell you that getting that book outside of you is the real challenge.  For many writers, though, moving on to a second book after the first has proven successful can be most difficult of all.

Wiley Cash's first novel A Land More Kind than Home might have been missed by many readers if not for independent booksellers, who both in an organized and independent way discovered the book and passed it on to their customers looking for a good read.

He sets his second novel This Dark Road to Mercy in North Carolina again, this time in Gastonia, the town where he grew up. While on the book tour with A Land More Kind than Home, he told his audience that this new book had an even more evil antagonist.  I knew that would be quite an accomplishment, to develop a character more evil than a snake handling preacher who'd stick an old woman's arm in a crate of poisonous snakes or smother a mentally handicapped boy and cover up his actions. 

This story too follows several characters, but readers first become engaged by Easter, a  young girl placed in a children's home with her sister after their mother's death, presumably from a drug overdose.  When their father, a former minor league baseball player who had abandoned his family, shows up to reclaim the girls, I was so afraid he would be that evil character.  Instead, their father Wade is a flawed, but complex character.

Cash also tells the story from the viewpoints of Brady Weller, the girls' guardian ad litem, a former policeman who also carries around a heavy load of guilt and Pruitt, a bar bouncer who always wears dark glasses that hide physical scars that run much deeper. There we have him--Cash's embodiment of evil.

In both of his books, Wiley Cash convincingly present the perspective of a young child.  His segueway to the other threads of the story caught me off guard the first time he shifted to Pruitt's perspective, but he balances the telling well.

When I finished reading, I wondered what Cash had been reading when he wrote this novel, since he shared those details in his first book. But then again, I don't need any more titles to add to my "must read" stack.

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