Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: This Dark Road to Mercy

Summary: Hailed as "mesmerizing" (New York Times Book Review) and "as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird" (Richmond Times-Dispatch), A Land More Kind Than Home made Wiley Cash an instant literary sensation. His resonant new novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, is a tale of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, a story that involves two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins.

When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a little town not far from the Appalachian Mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex–minor league baseball player whom they haven't seen in years, suddenly reappears and steals them away in the middle of the night.

Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and quickly turns up unsettling information linking him to a multimillion-dollar robbery. But Brady isn't the only one hunting him. Also on the trail is Robert Pruitt, a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, a man determined to find Wade and claim what he believes he is owed.

The combination of Cash's evocative and intimate Southern voice and those of the alternating narrators, Easter, Brady, and Pruitt, brings this soulful story vividly to life. At once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a testament to the unbreakable bonds of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go. -- William Morrow

I absolutely loved Wiley Cash's debut novel A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME. You can read my review here. Not only did I treasure this book for its complex characters, but Mr. Cash's writing was spectacular!

Fast forward a few months and I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cash at the Harper Collins' offices during BEA week. He is positively charming and so genuine -- exactly what I'd expect him to be based on his writing. (Yes. I realize that sounds weird but it's true!) As I sat down to write this review, I stumbled upon this essay he wrote yesterday comparing his wedding day to the launch day of his new novel THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY (Hint: Snow!); and I just had to share it because it's so sweet. Make sure you watch the entire video! His caption says, "The best vows ever. Get your tissues." And boy is he right!

But I digress....

A few weeks ago, I sat down to read THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY. I'm not going to lie when I say that I had big expectations for this book.... reading big. I think that's sometimes the problem when an author writes such a fantastic first book. Readers expect the next one to be just as good -- maybe even better; and often times they are disappointed.

Well I'm thrilled to say that Mr. Cash did not let me down! THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY is another wonderful book. I absolutely loved it. Once again, he created some memorable characters and he definitely captured the essence of the South (or should I say the mountain region of North Carolina?); and I thought his prose-- and by that, I mean his descriptions, his dialogue, etc. -- were outstanding. He is just so darn talented!

THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY tells the story of two sisters Easter (twelve) and Ruby (six). They are currently part of the foster home system after the death of their mother; however, their long-lost father Wade, an ex-minor league baseball player, arrives back in town and kidnaps them!

The court appointed guardian Brady Weller takes his job very seriously and sets out to find the two girls. In the process, he discovers some startling clues that links their father to a high stakes robbery. In addition, another man is also racing to find Wade to claim what he feels he is owed.

I really, really liked THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY; and it's exactly what I need to get me out of my reading slump. Even though I was busy with the holidays, I still managed to make time to read bits of this novel. I quickly became caught up in Easter and Ruby's story, and I appreciated how the tension of the story kept building. I had a feeling something major would happen. I just didn't know when or what!

I think I've mentioned (at least once!) how much I appreciate Mr. Cash's writing style. In this novel, he chose to tell much of the story in Easter's voice; however, he also told the story through the eyes of other supporting characters. I loved how he captured the essence of Easter -- which I might add is pretty darn impressive for a man to successfully write a young girl's voice; and I thought he balanced her youthful innocence with her wisdom and feelings of hope so well. Of course, he also did a great job with they other characters' voices, and he made each one seem very unique.

In addition, I really appreciated the pacing of the story. As I read more and more of the novel, I found that the pace kept building; and I began having a hard time putting it down. In fact, I think I read the last half of the novel in just one or two sittings because I was so curious about how the story was going to end.

And that brings me to my next point -- the story didn't have a neat and tidy ending. Much like the characters, their experiences, and ultimately their futures, are complex. I'm not entirely sure how I wanted to book to end, or what (if anything) would constitute a "happy" ending; however, I can say that this ending did make me think... and that's always a good thing.

Finally, as a longtime baseball fan, I loved how he incorporated that theme into the story. Wade was an ex-ballplayer so that was part of the book, and he wanted to use his experiences to help Easter become a better player. And Wade and his daughters also attended a pretty important baseball game towards the end of the novel. However, I appreciated it for more than just that! I loved how he used the home run battle as a theme, and how he juxtaposed the tension between the ballplayers' chase with the tension of actual chase in the story.

There is no doubt that many book clubs will enjoy discussing THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY in upcoming months. It really is an ideal book club pick. I was so happy to see that the publisher has a terrific reading guide posted with thirteen questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parent/child relationships, responsibility, redemption, forgiveness, laws that protect children, love, and second chances.

I adored THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY and can't recommend it enough! Mr. Cash has written another winner!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Literary Feline said...

I am glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much. I haven't read anything by this author, but I keep seeing this book pop up and I've heard nothing but good things about it. Great review!

bermudaonion said...

I cannot wait to read this! I think Wiley is fabulous and I loved that wedding video! One of the things that really struck me when I first met him was how much he loves his wife. I'm so glad to hear this book is so good.

Sandy Nawrot said...

You have to love a guy who loves his wife so much. And a guy who is willing to wear stretch jeans to accommodate his eating on the road! Love this guy. And I cannot wait to read this. After hearing how amazing his last book was on audio, I'm going to hold out and see if this one has an audio as well.

Beth Hoffman said...

I'm eager to read this and hope to get to it soon. Lovely review, Julie!

Nise' said...

I am anticipating this novel as well. I am trying to talk a couple of friends into reading it along with me. They have not read A Land More Kind Than Home.

Kelly-Belly said...

Everyone is talking about this book. I hope they have it at the library soon. : )

Stacie said...

Well, now thanks to you, my to-read list just got longer! This sounds like a book I would love.