WHAT’s it ABOUT: Carson Chambliss is the leader of a church up in the sparsely populated Appalachian Mountain region of North Carolina. His ministry is focused on faith-signs; which means that he believes that if you have faith enough, you can withstand fire and poisonous snake bites. One of his congregants however, does not quite trust his methods and to compromise, she holds Sunday School classes for the children so that they don’t have to witness the insanity. She tells one side of the story, as does one of the children: nine year old Jess. The third viewpoint is from the Sheriff. The plot focuses on an event involving Jess’ older brother who is mute and what happens when the church decides to hold a healing for him. It ends badly.
“The book is a thriller, but it’s so beautifully written that you’ll be torn about how fast to read it. This is great, gothic Southern fiction filled with whiskey, guns and snake-handling.” – NPR
The writing is spectacular. It felt so real. Even as I did question if Jess had a true balance of being naïve or wise (I’m still not sure), he was a great kid and I wanted to rush in and help him sort it all out but devastated knowing there was nothing I could do. I thought how the adults treated him was spot on. I really loved Adelaide’s back story but she frustrated me and I wanted to know much more about the Clem Barefield, the sheriff.
“A beautifully written morality tale.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
What’s NOT so good: I wanted just a little more! A little more into Clem’s grief, perhaps, but also, I should recant and recognize that I think it might just be perfect. The holding back of just enough keeps the reader wondering and engaged.
FINAL THOUGHTS: What is revealed is subtle in that regard and yes, it might be almost perfect that we didn’t get the ‘more’. Pacing and plotting of what happens is SO GOOD and the switch in viewpoints was executed very well – the story was well structured. For such heavy stuff, the writer seemed to have a light touch. He is very talented and I will read his latest, This Dark Road to Mercy.
RATING: Four moon pies. Can’t slice a moon pie, right!?
“I sat there in the car with the gravel dust blowing across the parking lot and saw the place for what was, not what it was right at that moment in the hot sunlight, but for what it had been maybe twelve or fifteen years before: a real general store with folks gathered around the lunch counter, a line of people at the soda fountain, little children ordering ice cream of just about every flavor you could think of hard candy by the quarter pound, moon pies and cracker jack and other things I hadn’t thought about tasting in years.”