Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kelly Stone Gamble: Wiley Cash's A Land More Kind Than Home

Kelly Stone Gamble is a freelance writer and personal friend. I asked her to review Wiley Cash's novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, for this forum as the subject of the novel brought back memories of my own childhood.

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I’ve been reading Suzi’s blog from day one and although I don’t agree with a lot of the ideas that the FOC promotes, I do understand, to a certain extent, how those that have been surrounded by and immersed in a religious environment become trapped in a world of belief.   There is one thing, however, that I just can’t understand, or maybe just can’t accept.  That is the suffering that some children are forced to endure because of their parents’ choices. 

I recently read “A Land More Kind Than Home” by Wiley Cash, which is the story of two young boys, Jess and Christopher Hall, both of whom become victims of their mothers belief.  The story is told by three narrators: the church matriarch, the town sheriff and Jess Hall.  Christopher is autistic and during a church service he is killed as the preacher, Carson Chambliss, and other members of the church attempt to ‘cure’ him.  This is an oversimplified description of the book, but it is enough for me to explain what really haunts me about this story.  Even after her oldest son is killed, Julie Hall continues to follow Chambliss, forsaking the welfare of her younger son, Jess.    

Julie was raised to believe, and in this case, to believe in the words of one man who hides behind the cloak of religion.  She is a victim, too, and when her son is killed, the reader is sympathetic.  Julie is unaware that Christopher saw her and Carson Chambliss, the church’s leader, in bed.  But Chambliss does know, and decides it is time to free the demons that are the cause of Christopher’s autism.  Julie allows Chambliss to try to heal her son, and it leads to his death. 

It is not necessarily Julie’s blind following of Carson Chambliss that bothers me.  As I said, I understand how those that are raised in a religious environment can become sheep-like.  However, when one child is killed, isn’t that enough for a mother to say ‘Stop’?  Isn’t that enough to open a woman’s eyes and realize that her children, her gifts from God, are her responsibility and she must do what is best for them, regardless of what her church deems right?  At what point does providing for the safety and welfare of ones children become paramount in the lives of those that follow a religion that clearly puts those lives in danger? 

I realize that ‘A Land More Kind Than Home’ is a work of fiction, however, the incidence of parents allowing the beliefs of their church to interfere with their own responsibility to their children is not fictitious at all.  It happens too frequently and at times results in unnecessary illness and death.  As a mother, this is what I can’t accept.  God blessed us with children and it is our responsibility to care for them.  Because in the end, it is not the Carson Chamblisses of this world who will answer for the abuses of the children.  It is the Julie Halls.  

Wiley Cash, Kelly Stone Gamble, and Suzi Shumaker - June 16, 2012


  1. As a friend of some former FOC members, I'm keenly aware of the problems anyone within that community faces when health issues are on the line. I could never justify the FOC attitudes against seeking medical help.

    Having said that, one sentence in this post stood out to me for its irony: "Julie allows Chambliss to try to heal her son, and it leads to his death." You could just as easily substitute the name of Chambliss for that of any doctor or medical system and it would make just as much sense and sorrow.

    Why aren't folks up in arms when chemotherapy goes south or when someone dies from bacteria they never had when entering the hospital? "We did our best..." just isn't good enough when a loved one dies due to human error. And yet it seems our society grants immunity to people wearing white lab coats with advanced medical degrees.

    My point is that there is no safe place on earth to deposit your faith, for trusting in man is a curse.

  2. I think the difference is that when you trust in medicine, you are trusting in science. It isn't blind faith, it is backed by years of research. As a nurse, believe me, when someone gets sick or dies due to 'human error' family members are up in arms. There is no immunity for those of us with white lab coats, if there were, we wouldn't need malpractice insurance. However, when someone is sick, we do have the ability to try to cure them using everything science has afforded us. Additionally, I believe in alternative medicines and therapies---when my kids lives are at stake, I will try anything, including prayer. But I would never limit their treatment to just one thing. Faith healing is a one stop shop, kind of like there is only one pill for everything.

    In this particular book, as I said, it isn't Julie's blind following that bothers me as much as what she does after her sons death. Again, I won't spoil the ending because it is a great book, but it isn't so much her belief as it is her neglect of her other child because of that belief.

  3. If you camp your trust in the knowledge/science of man, I’m afraid you will be tragically let down time and again (and especially in death). Are we better off today than when the ‘science’ of the day was bloodletting? Absolutely. But today’s ‘science’ has us injecting poison into our babies, applying chemical tonics to our every malady, and ingesting all manner of experimental pills. And still those supposed geniuses will call you stupid if you don’t place confidence in their ‘science’. I don’t mind being called stupid by those who trust in themselves.

    I’m not defending some notion of trust in ‘prayer’ when I criticize today’s almighty geniuses either. All I’m saying is your faith in man is disturbing.

    Everyone is picking and choosing who to trust. Stephen Hawking, the most revered ‘scientist’ of our generation believes and teaches that humans were spawned on earth by aliens millions of years ago. Is that the sort of ‘science’ you are trusting in? And I’m the freak for trusting in Jesus of Nazareth, who rose from the dead, I guess.

    We all crave true knowledge, so if that’s what you mean by science then even the FOC people would be onboard with that. I’m sure that they use recipes to make foods based on past experience, wear corrective lenses for the eyes, use fluoride toothpaste, and practice common hygiene. Yes, they are rather ignorant of many things that we take for granted in medicine. But worse yet, they pray blindly because they don’t know who they are praying to.

    1. I'm really curious why you have chosen to attack a simple book review because the 'reviewer' has a different belief than you. Wow. The review is about the book. Read it. Then I'm happy to discuss it.

  4. I'm sorry you feel attacked. I thought I was directing my critique at the moral assumptions in the story of the book itself. Since I don't read fiction, your review is the next best thing.

    And because you responded before without seeming offended, I wanted to further engage.

    Your sense of a mother's responsibility for the welfare of her children is noble. And I certainly would join you in critiquing those who subordinate their responsibility before God to religious authorities. I merely go a step further and add popular human, secular remedies to the list of tragic places to put faith in.


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