September 29, 2014

This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
2014 HarperCollins and Blackstone Audio
Readers: Scott Sowers, Jenna Lamia and Erik Bergmann
Finished on July 22, 2014
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!) 

Publisher’s Blurb:

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 and her six-year-old sister Ruby are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a 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 he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade 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.

This Dark Road to Mercy captured my heart from the opening lines thanks to the outstanding performance by reader Jenna Lamina. Reminiscent of Catherine Tabor’s performance for The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, Lamina’s southern accent is spot-on and captivating. I quickly became engrossed in Easter and Ruby’s story, eager to return to this remarkable audio book at every available opportunity. The narrative takes place during the summer of 1998 and I found myself reminiscing about my own long, hot summer afternoons in Fort Worth, Texas, spent stretched out in front of the television, watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa race toward the home-run record. I do so love a good baseball story and one that is set in the south makes for a perfect novel, don’t you agree?

On baseball:
I could see everything around me now: the whole outfield with Sammy Sosa standing over in right, the upper deck, and the open white circle of the ballpark above us where the bright blue sky almost looked like a lid that was keeping all the heat trapped inside. I could feel everything around me too: the crowd was so loud that you couldn’t even hear the music or the announcers, and when Brian Jordan hit a fly ball to left field and McGwire stepped into the batter’s box with nobody on base it was the loudest thing I’d ever heard. Ruby stuffed her hot dog in her mouth and covered her ears with her hands. But as soon as McGwire set his feet and got into his batting stance the whole stadium went totally silent, and you couldn’t hardly hear a thing.

Maybe it was all the heat, or maybe it was the breeze coming across the field from home plate, but something about it all reminded me of the first time me and Ruby saw the ocean. It felt like years ago, even though it hadn’t quite been a week, but I remembered it now: the way the warm sand felt under my feet, the sound of the tide like the whispering voices I heard all around me now, the sight of the waves moving far out in the ocean like the way people were moving all around the ballpark, trying to get a better look at what might be about to happen.

Final Thoughts:

Part mystery, part coming-of-age (and with a powerful baseball story providing the perfect backdrop),Wiley Cash has written a beautiful story that will steal your heart from the opening lines. Fans of All Over But the Shoutin’ (Rick Bragg), The Homecoming of Samuel Lake (Jenny Wingfield), Calling Me Home (Julie Kibler) and The Help (Kathryn Stockett) are sure to fall in love with Cash’s lyrical prose and I suspect book clubs across the country will make this one of their top picks of 2014. I plan to pick up a copy of This Dark Road to Mercy when the paperback edition hits the shelves later this month. I encourage you to do the same. This is one to own!

About the Author

Wiley Cash is from western North Carolina, a region that figures prominently in his fiction. He holds a BA in literature from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, an MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He and his wife currently live in West Virginia, where he teaches fiction writing and American literature at Bethany College.


  1. A good writer AND he is from the South! Couldn't be better for me!
    Thanks for a great review, Les.
    Also, I must tell you, I love your header photo just now...those clouds, WOW!

    1. Hope you get a chance to give it a read, Kay. And thanks for the compliment on my header. I took that photo when we were in New Mexico last year. It was taken at the Valles Caldera National Preserve near Jemez Springs. It was one of the highlights of our trip!

  2. I thought A Land More Kind Than Home was even better than this one!

    1. Oh, this is so good to know! I'll wait a little bit until I read it, though. I hate to wind up comparing the two books and having it fall short.

  3. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, Calling Me Home, and The Help are among my favorite audiobooks, so this has to be a "must listen"! Strange that it wasn't even on my wish list. Thanks for the review, Les!

    1. Those three books are among my favorite audios, too, JoAnn. You definitely have to make a point to get this one on audio rather than in print. I know you'll fall in love with Easter!

  4. I think I have this book and his other one, too, but I just don't seem to be reading anymore. :( I listen all the time, but just sitting and reading doesn't seem to happen very often. Well, often - yes. I read every night, but not for long spurts of time. We're talking pages . . . then zzzzzz! I really want to listen to this, but it's still too new, so I can't borrow it through our system yet.

    1. I'm not reading much anymore either, Joy. I listen to tons of audios, but as far as print books go, I'm only reading for a few minutes every night before I fall asleep! Hope you can get this in audio. The reader was just wonderful!

  5. Absolutely agree! I did keep waiting for something shockingly horrible to happen, as in A Land More Kind Than Home. When I realized that wasn't happening then I really hoped it wouldn't end it all "happily ever after." Just loved the way everything ended up.

    1. I'm really anxious to get to A Land More Kind Than Home, Lisa! Wonder what he's working on now.


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