Easter and Ruby are sisters living in Gastonia, North Carolina, near the border of Appalachia. Their mother is dead and their father, Wade, might as well be, having signed away his parental rights years ago. The sisters don’t give him a second thought until he shows up at the group home they’ve been living in. He’s interested in maybe checking them out for a day, like a library book. But it doesn’t work like that. Wade realizes the only way he’ll have a chance with his daughters is to sneak away with them in the middle of the night. And he does just that, but as the girls’ case handler (and the police) work to track Wade down, they realize he’s likely involved in more than just a simple kidnapping.
Cash had a hard task ahead with his sophomore novel. His debut, A Land More Kind than Home, is a near perfect example of dark southern fiction (complete with snake wielding preacher). While This Dark Road to Mercy doesn’t quite reach the same heights as his first novel, Cash has written another compelling novel about the bonds of family and the sins of the past.
Perhaps the most successful aspect of the novel is the author’s ability to evoke the gritty and Gothic feel of his story – abandoned children, rural Appalachian poverty, and criminal history. With spare prose, smart dialogue, and fantastic pacing, this book should work well. And for the most part it does, although I have to say the book started out much stronger than it finished. Even so, I’d recommend this novel if a blend of Cormac McCarthy and Dennis Lehane sounds good to you (and it’s a must read for Southern Gothic enthusiasts…like me).
The novel raises quite a few interesting questions about vengeance, forgiveness, and the bonds of family. And as the title suggests, there is mercy, which is practically a pleasant change of pace in this particular sub-genre. While I would consider A Land More kind Than Home a can’t-miss-go-to-your-nearest-bookstore-immediately type of book – which is admittedly hard to compete with – Wiley Cash’s sophomore novel is absolutely worth reading.
Is Southern Gothic a genre you read? And, slightly off topic, doesn’t Wiley Cash come up with fabulous title names?
*Thank you to TLC Tours for allowing me to join in celebrating the paperback release of This Dark Road To Mercy.*