Title – This Dark Road to Mercy
Author – Wiley Cash
Published – 30 January 2014
Genre – Contemporary fiction
Cash’s debut A Land More Kind Than Home was one of my favourite book’s of 2012, so I was particularly looking forward to seeing what direction he would take with his second novel.
There are certainly many similarities between this and his debut. Again one of the main characters is a child – in this case Easter, a 12 year old girl who is currently living in a foster home with her younger sister. Much of the story is seen through Easter’s eyes – she’s seen a lot for her age and has something of a world-weary view. The story shifts between the view points of three main characters – as well as Easter there is Brady Weller, guardian to the girls, and a mysterious character called Pruitt.
It’s six years since Easter has seen her father, Wade, when he shows up at a baseball game she’s playing in at the foster home. It’s not an emotional reunion – there’s been a lot of water under the bridge for Easter. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Wade has signed his rights away to his daughters, which means he takes (relatively) drastic action in order to spend some time with them. When they inexplicably disappear from the foster home Weller feels bound to help track them down. In fact Weller has his own family issues, especially with his teenage daughter, and it’s easy to see that this influences his behaviour.
What seems to be important here is that the main character in the book – Easter’s father Wade – is only viewed through the eyes of others so his motives remain a mystery. Cash manages to make the fiction thought-provoking, and he certainly cements his ability to evoke small-town America, but somehow the story didn’t connect with me in the way that his debut did.
Amongst my misgivings is the fact that I felt the plot seemed more like a short story rather than a novel, which did little to reduce my impatience for something to happen. Although when it did it was quite surprising and in fact made me think of ‘No Country For Old Men (the film – I’ve not read the book!).
Wade is an ex-baseball player and the sport permeates the story. Unfortunately it’s a game I know very little about and I always feel at a bit of a loss in books where baseball features prominently – much like I imagine an American would feel when faced with stories featuring cricket. Despite reading plenty of books where baseball is significant to the plot, I’m just none the wiser and find it very hard to picture what is happening.
There were also a couple of aspects of the story, or backstory, that were alluded to but never stated explicitly, and I’m not the sort of reader who likes to fill in the gaps for themselves!
I know that there are already some fans out there, but I’m afraid that this just didn’t do it for me. You can see another review over at Raven Crime Reads. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.