And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. – Mark 16:17-18, KJV
Adelaide Lyle remembers her hometown of Marshall, North Carolina, as a harsh but beautiful place nestled deep in the mountains of Madison County. Like most folks there, Addie is a Christian, God-fearing individual. But when the charismatic pastor Carson Chambliss moves into town and opens the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, he changes the face of her beloved town, and she feels an ugly, cold fear root in her soul. Chambliss covers all the windows of the little church in newspaper, and it is an unspoken agreement that no one talks about what happens during his fiery sermons. But when a woman dies from snakebite, Addie finally draws a line: children should not be involved in such things. She leaves the church, holding Sunday School for the children at her home. But like the rattlers he transports so carefully in little wooden boxes, Carson Chambliss is willing to wait patiently for his enemy to make a fatal misstep.
At nine years old, Jess Hall knows that he has to take care of his big brother, the boy everyone in Marshall knows as Stump. Stump is mute, and not as quick as the other children, so Jess has to protect him. But Stump doesn’t always listen to Jess, and one day both see something they shouldn’t– something dangerous that brings Stump under the cold and calculating eye of Pastor Chambliss. When Stump is invited to a very special service just for him, Jess doesn’t want him to go, but their mother is one of Pastor Chambliss’s most ardent followers and insists he’ll be fine. What happens next changes the little town of Marshall, and Jess’s world, forever.
Told through the eyes of three very different narrators, Wiley Cash’s excellent debut novel provides a glimpse into a town caught under the thumb of a man convinced he is God. Steeped in the history and flavor of the North Carolina mountains, fans of Charles Frazier will find this tale a fulfilling read.
A Land More Kind Than Home won the inaugural Crook’s Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.