LYBI Book Club: July Follow Up

As you may have seen, for July book club I chose ‘A Land More Kind Than Home’ by Wiley Cash (after reading his second book, This Dark Road to Mercy). And man, I have to say, this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It got me in every way a book can “get you”. IMG_0520

So like always, here’s how this’ll go. I’ll post some questions for discussion, and you guys let er’ rip. Here’s what Amazon says about the book if you don’t believe me about how great it is. As always, there will be SPOILERS. So, join us if you’ve read the book or if spoilers don’t bother you 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the following (feel free to number your comment to correspond to the discussion point). Or you can talk about anything else that struck you about the book. Oh and special thanks to Wiley Cash for having discussion questions in the book (remember I said this will be summer reading material for sure), and for responding to all my tweets/fb tags. I always think it’s cool when authors and anyone else takes the time to respond. ‘Preciate it. wiley cash

 

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So okay folks, let the discussion begin. I’ll pick and choose a little here, and sub in some others not from the back of the book discussion.

1. Let’s talk about my tweet. Who would play Carson Chambliss in a film? Love the idea of Michael Shannon. Chambliss’s character is “magnetic” as Cash puts it. How does he have such a hold on his congregation and on Julie?

In my opinion, this is a really scary thing that is happening in churches today. As Brene Brown says in her TED talk, “Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery, to certainty. I’m right. You’re wrong. Shut up.” And  I think this is Wiley’s commentary on that. Particularly in the southeast where we are…it gets scary here, and I think Chambliss really personifies that fear. Luckily, I’m an Episcopalian…we tend to embrace the questioning and uncertainty that is faith.

2. “How might the events in the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?”

Ugh….ensue my gut-wrenching. This is so sad. I totally understood Jess’s inability to be honest with his mom, he’d seen a lot of hard things. And perhaps part of him wanted her to believe that so she could be happier with Stump and his condition. But so much could have changed if he told. But hey–that’s life.

3. What did you think about the setting?

For me, it felt very familiar, which deepened my connection to this book. Loved the setting and I was actually driving through Western NC from the lake while I was listening to parts of this on Audible. Kind of made me look around and picture the events that were being read aloud. They even mention Stephens Co. and Toccoa, GA where I’ve spent every summer since I was 8 at Camp Mikell–so that was pretty spectacular. He nailed the setting perfectly, but I guess Cash would since he’s up thatta’ way.

4. Addie pulled all the children out of the church when she became aware of the “doings” of Chambliss and some of the other folks in the church. She’s a “good christian”, but doesn’t attend church. Are these things contradictory?

Obviously, my answer may be a little different, being married to an Epis. priest and whatnot. But no, going to church and “showing face” doesn’t make you good or bad. I’m a pretty firm believer in “whatever works for each person”. So if you feel good after going to church, good! If you feel better not going to church and sipping your coffee and having quiet time Sunday morning? Good! We’ve got society telling us lots of things to do and not to do to be “good” and “better”, but church and religion is pretty personal. So do your thing. Whatever that is. That’s how I feel about it.

5. The characters are so dynamic in this book. Jess. Clem. Jimmy Hall (grandpa). Ben Hall (dad). Julie. Addie. Stump. Chambliss. And others. It’s pretty amazing how Cash brings these folks to life and how the story unfolds. So heart wrenching and full of evil, revenge and betrayal, but wrapped up in forgiveness, faith and understanding.

As these are the novels themes, what did you think of the book?

Now I know I’ve convinced a handful of folks to read this book in the last month, so y’all…chime in! What did you think?

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(mtns of Western NC where I read a lot of this book).

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3 thoughts on “LYBI Book Club: July Follow Up

  1. Bean’s husband, David, here. I really enjoyed this book — lots of dynamics, and Cash seems to offer a lot of insights into family, church, community, religion, and many more themes.

    1. Who would play Carson Chambliss in a film? How does he have such a hold on his congregation and on Julie?

    I’d also be interested in seeing Michael Shannon play this role, but I also thought about someone not as well-known. Maybe it’s because we just recently watched True Detective which has a minister in a southern rural town, but I think Shea Whigham (google image “True Detective minister”) was really good in that role.

    How does Chambliss have such a hold on his congregation and Julie — it’s funny because we see both complete trust in Chambliss (Julie, the men who come over to the house that Ben gets into a fight with, other parishioners) as well as distrust (Adelaide, Ben, Clem). I wonder if, as Bean mentioned earlier, the black-and-whiteness of religion (“I’m right, you’re wrong”) is also evident in the church, especially in this book’s setting — i.e., since a minister works for the church, he’s “good” and trustworthy. There are those who buy into that and those who, for different reasons, sense that something’s amiss.

    2. “How might the events in the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?”

    I agree that it’s gut-wrenching and sad, and part of me wonders if the events would’ve been any different at all. Especially when it comes to religion, once someone believes something, it can be nearly impossible to convince them that it’s not true. Sometimes that’s helpful and is an important aspect of faith. In this situation, I think that if Jess told his mother the truth, she wouldn’t have believed him and nothing would’ve been different — other than Jess’s torment and guilt would’ve had an added level to it.

    3. What did you think about the setting?

    Loved it. Like Beano, I love driving around western NC and up around Toccoa — it can seem a very idyllic and relaxing setting, and the idea of living out in the country can be very appealing (even though I’d have NO idea what to do or how to live on a farm). But at the same time, this story reminds me that, while I’m driving through these small towns admiring the landscapes and pastures and thinking that the little Churches of God are so adorable, there’s a lot going on that I have no idea about and probably wouldn’t want to know.

    4. Addie pulled all the children out of the church when she became aware of the “doings” of Chambliss and some of the other folks in the church. She’s a “good christian”, but doesn’t attend church. Are these things contradictory?

    To add to what Bean said above, I also think it’s important to note that, for Addie in this situation, being a “good Christian” means NOT going to this particular church. Addie recognizes that even though there are things going on in the church building, that’s not what church is about — and she takes action to do something different. She acts out of a belief that the Church (in general) should function in certain ways, and this particular church is doing things that a church shouldn’t be doing.

    To an extent, I’d disagree with the idea that Addie doesn’t “attend church.” True, she’s not in the building while the church service is going on, but she’s teaching and singing with the children in another location. Isn’t that doing the work of the church as well? And her refusal to go along with Chambliss’ “doings” is also spiritually founded — it comes out of her being a “good Christian.” Many Old Testament prophets warn against merely “attending church” — i.e., being in a specific building at a specific time — and instead encourage their people to live lives outside the walls of the church (or, in their case, Temple) building.

    5. As these are the novels themes, what did you think of the book?

    I loved the book. There are so many scenes of what it’s like to live in a community of imperfect and broken people. The bitter relationship between the two elder fathers (Clem Barfield and Jimmy Hall)…Hope, reconciliation, forgiveness…The imagery of the community around the burning barn and people passing and emptying buckets of water to put out the fire — I haven’t sat with it enough yet, but I think there’s something there about the work of the church in community and baptism and all that. It’s a very rich, powerful book.

  2. Is it too late to ask you what the title of the book means? Very powerful story but I’m not sure which land is kinder than home….

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