Category Archives: Wiley Cash

Review: When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

Title: When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical (80s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The eagerly awaited novel from the New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home, a tender and haunting story of a father and daughter, crime and forgiveness, race and memory

When the roar of a low-flying plane awakens him in the middle of the night, Sheriff Winston Barnes knows something strange is happening at the nearby airfield on the coast of North Carolina. But nothing can prepare him for what he finds: a large airplane has crash-landed and is now sitting sideways on the runway, and there are no signs of a pilot or cargo. When the body of a local man is discovered—shot dead and lying on the grass near the crash site—Winston begins a murder investigation that will change the course of his life and the fate of the community that he has sworn to protect.

Everyone is a suspect, including the dead man. As rumors and accusations fly, long-simmering racial tensions explode overnight, and Winston, whose own tragic past has followed him like a ghost, must do his duty while facing the painful repercussions of old decisions. Winston also knows that his days as sheriff may be numbered. He’s up for re-election against a corrupt and well-connected challenger, and his deputies are choosing sides. As if these events weren’t troubling enough, he must finally confront his daughter Colleen, who has come home grieving a shattering loss she cannot fully articulate.

As the suspense builds and this compelling mystery unfolds, Wiley Cash delves deep into the hearts of these richly drawn, achingly sympathetic characters to reveal the nobility of an ordinary man struggling amidst terrifying, extraordinary circumstances.


Taking place in North Carolina in 1984, When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash is a richly developed, character-driven mystery.

Sheriff Winston Barnes and his wife Marie wake up in the middle of the night after hearing a low flying airplane. The small municipal airport is not open at night so Winston’s curiosity is certainly piqued and he heads off to investigate. What he finds is more than just a little perplexing. Barnes immediately discovers a murder victim and an empty plane. He and sheriff department Captain Glenn Haste begin a preliminary investigation but they are interrupted by his opponent in the upcoming election and FBI agents. Winston is frustrated by the quick arrival of Agents Avery Rollins and Josh Rountree since he was hoping his management of the case would be an asset in the election. With his reputation on the line, Barnes deftly balances rising racial tensions and the murder investigation.

Winston’s tenure as Sheriff has lasted for years and he is facing his first challenge at the ballot box. His opponent is wealthy property developer Bradley Frye with a reputation as a bully. Winston’s experience and calm demeanor serve him well as he investigates the murder of Rodney Bellamy who is Black. The victim’s father Ed is a Vietnam Veteran, high school teacher and civil rights leader whom the sheriff highly regards and respects. What Barnes does not expect is the rush to judgment about the airplane’s missing contents and suspicions about Rodney that are enflamed by Frye’s unsubstantiated claims.

In the midst of the investigation, Winston is also balancing issues from home. Marie is suffering from serious health problems and he has concerns about losing the election. Their daughter, Colleen, lives in Dallas with her husband, Scott, and she is struggling in the aftermath of a heartbreaking loss. She is at loose ends with Scott working long hours and she makes an impulsive decision that takes her parents and husband off guard.

When Ghosts Come Home is a captivating mystery with a socially relevant storyline and memorable characters. Winston is highly principled with a strong moral compass but he is also extraordinarily compassionate. The storyline is engrossing and fully captures racial tensions in the south during the early 1980s.  Colleen’s story arc is compelling and heartrending as she comes to terms with what she has lost and what she wants for her future. The mystery surrounding the plane crash and Rodney’s murder is intriguing and suspense-laden. Wiley Cash brings this extraordinary story to an unpredictable conclusion that is deeply affecting.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (80s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, When Ghosts Come Home, Wiley Cash, William Morrow

Review: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Title: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Literary Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash’s Serena, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood.

Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill’s owners—the newly arrived Goldberg brothers—white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May’s best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it’s the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find.

When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county’s biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement—a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town—indeed all that she loves.

Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.

Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early twentieth-century America—and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel confirms Wiley Cash’s place among our nation’s finest writers.


Rich with historical details and based on real life events, The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash shines a much needed light on the  National Textile Workers Union attempt to secure better wages and working conditions for textile workers in the south.

In 1929, single mother Ella May Wiggins works twelve hours a day, six days a week at American Mill No. 2. Although she relies on the kindness of her neighbors in Stumpton to help watch over her four children while she is working, her $9 a week paycheck barely covers rent and food for her and her family. After attending a union rally in nearby Gastonia where workers at the Loray Mill are being evicted from their homes after going on strike, Ella becomes an unlikely spokeswoman for the union when she wins over the crowd with her moving life story and recently penned ballad, The Mill Mother’s Lament.  Over the next several months, Ella and union organizer Sophia Blevin continue their efforts to integrate Ella’s African-American neighbors and co-workers into the National Textile Workers Union. In the deeply segregated South where minorities and women have no voice or rights, Ella’s work with the union is dangerous and her attempts to include African-Americans in the fight for better wages culminates in heartbreak.

Growing up in poverty in the NC mountains,  Ella marries young and follows her husband, John, from one mill town to another. After the death of their young son, John abandons her and their children and Ella cannot find work anywhere except American Mill No. 2 where whites and African Americans work alongside one another. After coming close to losing her job when she stays home to care for her sick baby, Ella is drawn to the union rally in hopes of improving pay and working conditions for herself and her fellow workers. She is pragmatic and deals with every hardship that comes her way with stoicism yet Ella’s love for her children is fierce.

While Ella is the central figure in the unfolding story, the chapters alternate between various points of view.  Daughter Lilly’s perspective takes place in the present as she shares memories of those long ago days with her nephew, Edwin.  Verchel Park’s acquaintance with Ella’s former husband John has unintended consequences that he only realizes long after their occurrence. The wife of a wealthy mill owner from a neighboring town, Katherine McAdam is drawn to Ella through a shared loss and their unlikely friendship proves to be life saving. African-American train porter Hampton Haywood’s family fled Mississippi in fear for their lives and although he now lives in New York, he cannot resist the call to help the union organizers in the South.  Disgraced police officer Albert Roach is instrumental in setting in motion the final confrontation that ends with a devastating loss.

The Last Ballad is a meticulously researched novel with a thought-provoking and poignant storyline. Based on factual events,  Wiley Cash brings the characters, setting and time period in this compelling story vibrantly to life.  Ella May Wiggins’ struggles to provide for her family are positively gut wrenching and her impressive efforts to improve working conditions and higher wages are captivating.  I absolutely loved and highly recommend this extraordinary novel that highlights a mostly forgotten yet vastly important time in the history of the labor movement.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (20s), Literary Fiction, Rated B+, Review, The Last Ballad, Wiley Cash, William Morrow

Review: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

darkTitle: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home—hailed as “a powerfully moving debut that reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird” (Richmond Times Dispatch)—returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, set in western North Carolina, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins.

After their mother’s unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.

Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn’t the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated by a trio of alternating voices, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

The Review:

Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road to Mercy is an intriguing and suspenseful novel about a desperate father who kidnaps his daughters and finds himself on the run when a person from his past seizes the opportunity to exact his revenge.

Set in 1998, readers are whisked back in time to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire’s heated battle to break Robert Maris’s homerun record. As the drama between Sosa/McGuire plays out, ex-minor league ballplayer Wade Chesterfield kidnaps the daughters he abandoned years earlier. Twelve year old Easter and her sister Ruby are living in a foster home following the death of their mother and while at first, Easter wants nothing to do with her wayward father, she willingly leaves with him. Their guardian ad litem, Brady Weller, an ex-cop who can never atone for a tragic accident, and Robert Pruitt, a vengeful psychopath from Wade’s ball playing days, are soon in pursuit of Wade and the missing girls.

This Dark Road to Mercy unfolds from three of the characters’ perspectives. The most compelling and sympathetic voice is that of twelve year old Easter. Easter grew up way too fast and she is wise beyond her years. She is very protective of Ruby and with clear memories of Wade’s neglect, she is suspicious of his reappearance in their lives. She struggles to maintain an emotional distance but she is still a little girl whose mixed feelings for her dad slowly evolve over the course of their travels.

Brady’s point of view is just as riveting. His concern for the girls is genuine and when he realizes the kidnapping is not a high priority for the police, he begins his own investigation. He uncovers important evidence that links Wade to the missing money from the armored car robbery and the trail eventually leads to some very unsavory individuals.

Robert Pruitt is motivated by more than greed to find Wade. He has a score to settle and he is ruthless in his attempts to track him down. He is merciless and methodical in his quest for information and the suspense builds as he closes in on his quarry.

My feelings for Easter, Ruby, Brady and Pruitt stayed pretty much the same throughout the novel. But Wade? I went back and forth between feeling sorry for him and wanting to shake some sense into him. He truly loves his daughters and he really does want to be a father to them. But Wade is immature and selfish and his impetuous decisions demonstrate his lack of common sense. He has a good heart, but does that mean he is should regain custody of his daughters?

This Dark Road to Mercy is a dramatic and engrossing novel with a cast of characters that invoke a wide range of emotions. The setting is perfect for the story and Wiley Cash once again paints a vibrant and gritty portrait of life in the south. It is a wonderful story of redemption with an ending that is as surprising as it is satisfying.

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Filed under Fiction, Rated B, Review, This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash, William Morrow

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Title: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: William Morrow
Genre: Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: A+ and A Recommended Read

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through Edelweiss


A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town.

For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.

Told by three resonant and evocative characters—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past—A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.

The Review:

Wiley Cash’s debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home is a spectacular and powerful story that brings life in rural North Carolina to vibrantly to life. Set in the 1980s, it is an profound tale of dark secrets, a charismatic evangelical minister and the evil that is sometimes wrought in the name of religion.

Told in first person from three of the key players’ perspectives, the horrifying events surrounding Christopher Hall’s heartbreaking death are revealed. The story begins from midwife and longtime Marshall resident Adelaide Lyle’s point of view. As the midwife who delivered Christopher and a member of Reverend Carson Chambliss’s congregation, her life is irrevocably interwoven with the Hall family and the Reverend. It is through her voice we learn of the inexplicable acts of faith healing that are practiced by the Reverend’s congregation that sometimes end with tragic results. We also learn much of the church’s, the town’s and the Hall’s family history from Adelaide’s recollections of the past.

Well aware of some of the goings on in the Chambliss church, Sheriff Clem Barefield’s hands are tied when it comes to probing into what happens behind the church’s closed doors until Christopher’s untimely death. As is so often common in small towns, the Hall family and the Sheriff’s paths have also crossed and they, too, are linked by a past tragedy. His investigation into Christopher’s death opens old wounds and forces Clem to share an unimaginable bond with Christopher’s grandfather, Jimmy.

The most innocent voice in novel is that of young Jess Hall but his is the voice that resonates most throughout the recounting of the circumstances leading up to Christopher’s death and the situations that follow. He and Christopher are typical children whose curiosity about the actions of the adults in their lives sets in motion the terrible chain of events that leads to Christopher’s death.

The true villain of A Land More Kind Than Home is Reverend Carson Chambliss. He is a charismatic man who makes the most of the opportunities presented to him and he fully exploits his followers’ faith to suit his own needs. What are his motivations for using faith healing on the mute Christopher Hall? Is it to cast out the demons who are keeping him from speaking? Or his reason something far more sinister-an attempt to keep a dark and potentially devestating secret from ever being revealed?

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash is a captivating novel that spotlights the evil that can sometimes lurk in the guise of religion. It is a sometimes harrowing tale that details the loss of innocence and the tragedy that not only befalls the Hall family but an entire town and a fanatical church. But it is also a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption that will linger long after it comes to an utterly unexpected and stunning conclusion.


Filed under A Land More Kind Than Home, Fiction, HarperCollins, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Wiley Cash