Confession time: I tried to read Wiley Cash's debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home,
three times--twice in print and once in audio. I don't know. Maybe it
was my mood that year, but despite rave reviews from pretty much
everyone on earth, it just didn't click with me.
Thank goodness I didn't give up on Cash altogether because once I started listening to his second book, This Dark Road to Mercy, I was totally hooked. From the authentic voice of Easter Quilby to the questionable motives of her father and the excitement of the 1998 home-run battle between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire (pre-steroid scandal), Wiley Cash nicely overlays a moment in history with the defining weeks of a young girl's life.
- Here's the gist: Twelve-year-old Easter Quilby and her little sister, Ruby, are adjusting to life in foster care after the death of their young mother. When their estranged father (Wade) suddenly decides he wants to be a parent, Easter is distrustful. Nevertheless, she slips out of bed in the middle of the night, leaving with Ruby for a new life. Meanwhile, two men are on their trail: one is a bad, bad man who has it in for Wade and the other is a broken man who is the girls' court-appointed guardian.
- Easter: The bulk of the story is told by Easter, who is full up with mixed emotions, especially when it comes to Wade. It's amazing how perfectly Cash tapped into the heart and soul of the troubled, yet resourceful young girl. As is typical for preteens, Easter sees much, but doesn't fully understand all.
- The men; the other voices: Brady Weller is a kind man who had some bad luck that ended his police career and his marriage. Maybe as compensation for having lost his relationship with his daughter, he takes a genuine interest in the girls' safety. Pruitt, on the other hand, has found a way to get paid to hurt the man who ruined his life. He's a creepy, thoroughly evil sociopath.
- Other thoughts: From the moment Easter makes the decision to talk to Wade the first time, the tension slowly, exquisitely begins to build. You know that no good can come of this, yet you understand why Easter begins to fall under his spell. Although the core of This Dark Road to Mercy takes place over a handful of days, for Easter it must have seemed like a lifetime.
- Recommendations: Don't miss This Dark Road to Mercy if you love Southern fiction, coming-of-age stories, and literary fiction. Although baseball is a running theme throughout the story, this is not a sports novel. It's about fathers and daughters, finding safety, and learning to cope (or not) with adversity.
- Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Harper Audio; 7 hr, 53 min) is read by Jenna Lamia, Erik Bergmann, and Scott Sowers. Although my full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine, let me give you a hint: this is a don't-miss listen. Lamia, especially, is superb.
Source: Review--print and audio (see review policy)
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