A Land More Kind Than Home Summary & Study Guide

Wiley Cash
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A Land More Kind Than Home Summary & Study Guide Description

A Land More Kind Than Home Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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A Land More Kind Than Home is the story of faith and belief gone wrong, a community that follows a false prophet even when his methods lead to the deaths of members of their community. The story is told by Adelaide Lyle, Jess Hall and Sheriff Clem Barefield, as they relay the present events as well as the past events that set up the action. Adelaide opens the novel by recapping the death of Molly Jameson, who had died from a poisonous snake bite during one of Pastor Carson Chambliss' ritual services. Her body was moved to her garden, where it would be found. After this event Adelaide decided to pull the children out of the church, for their own safety, but did not involve the police. After this flashback, it is revealed that a young boy had recently died in another one of Chambliss' services, and Chambliss would like to meet with Adelaide. During this meeting Adelaide is intimidated and physically assaulted by the pastor; she leaves shaken up.

Jess Hall is now the speaker, the son of Ben and Julie Hall and the brother of Christopher "Stump" Hall. He is playing hooky from sunday school with his friend Joe-Bill. The two boys see the church all boarded up with newspaper and Joe-Bill dares Jess to look inside. Jess remembers that his older brother Stump had been taken inside the church, and that he needs to take advantage of this opportunity, as Stump can't talk and won't be able to relay his experiences. Jess recaps the time that he and his brother saw his mom and Carson Chambliss in Julie's bedroom. Chambliss realizes that Stump had seen him, and the next day Stump is taken into the church. In the morning service the elders attempt a healing on Stump, an aggressive and violent physical healing that Jess sees through the window, causing him to shout out for his mother. This shout is misinterpreted by Julie and the members of the parish as they believe it was Stump. His mother tells him that the church had had a healing, and Stump had called out to her. Jess realizes the truth of that statement, but decides to keep it to himself, for his mother's sake. They return home for dinner, where Ben is waiting in the driveway with a snake that he has recently killed. He asks the boys to bury it, and they do, but not before it seems to come back alive. During the dinner conversation it is revealed the Ben's father will be returning to town soon. Julie, Jess and Stump go to the evening service for a second healing, leaving Jess in the car. After the service a church elder arrives and drives Jess to Adelaide's house, not answering his questions about what had happened.

Clem Barefield is the speaker, and he gives the reader insight into the background of the town as well as Ben Hall. He receives a call from his deputy saying that Christopher Hall had been killed in the Church of Signs Following. On the way there he recounts an event regarding his son Jeff and Ben Hall, that led him to realize that Ben's father might be more dangerous/abusive than he had originally believed. He also reveals that Jimmy Hall had been an alcoholic. He also recounts the story of Farmer Gillum, where Chambliss had exorcised a demon, which had then apparently ran into his tobacco farming barn. Gillum decided to burn the barn to kill the demon, along with his product. Clem uses this incident to describe the sort of religious fanaticism that is common in the county. After this event he researches Carson Chambliss, and finds out that he had been a petty criminal in Alabama until he blew up a meth lab, killing a runaway sixteen year old and burning the right side of his body. This led him to be imprisoned for two years, where he founded the cult of signs following, consuming poison, fire and other liquids to test his faith.

Jess is the next speaker, as he tries to understand what had taken place during the evening service. Church elders arrive with Stump's body, and lay it on a bed in Adelaide's house. Ben arrives and calls the sheriff, amazed that no one had yet called him. Julie reveals that Chambliss had told her to not. More church elders arrive, saying that they are trying to offer condolences. Ben reacts violently, attacking the men that he believes were sent to intimidate. The sheriff arrives, breaking up the fight but not enacting any legal action on Ben given the circumstances. Jimmy Hall arrives to take Jess home, so that his parents can deal with the funeral setup. On the way home Jimmy attempts to buy alcohol from a liquor store on a Sunday, inciting an aggressive reaction from the liquor store owner. When they arrive at the house, Jess reminisces about catching fireflies with Stump, and how they would put them in Mason Jars to observe them. He recalls the time he made his brother a firefly in art class for a Christmas present, and that Stump had put it in his special box. The two of them discuss death, and how to deal with it, Jess as a young boy and Jimmy as a wiser old man.

Clem returns as the speaker, and gives more details about the character of Jimmy Hall, all bad. He then recounts the death of his son Jeff in an electrical accident with Jimmy Hall's company. He was hurt and enraged by this, assuming that Jimmy had been drinking. He tried to find him, driving up a hill in the blizzard until he couldn't drive any more. He then walked up and found Jimmy in his truck apparently inebriated. He pistol whipped him, and then left him in his truck for the night. The next morning, Jimmy towed Clem's car out from the snow bank, apologizing for the death of Jeff.

Adelaide returns as the narrator, as she recounts her youth with her great aunt on the mountain, and the summer that she had to move to the city to save their lives. She worked as a cleaning girl for some time until she started to use her knowledge of the tobacco market to get a better job. When she returned from the city at the end of that summer she found her great-aunt long dead. She ventured down from the mountain to ask for help from a family with the burial, which they agree to do, somewhat reluctantly. She then had a dream to help her get over the death of her relative, which featured Jesus telling her that he has always been right behind her actions. After this recollection, she recounts the story of how she had traveled through a blizzard to help Julie birth her child, Christopher. Christopher did not cry at all after his birth, foreboding his muteness and mental condition. After this birth, Ben refused to bury the afterbirth, saying that it was unchristian. Adelaide is irritated by this, as she knows that her knowledge of holistic medicine is not well accepted by the community, but it is still not anti-christian. After this story, she retells the origin of Christopher's nickname, Stump. There was a sales agent who visited the Hall residence to purchase some tobacco, when he noticed Christopher in the front yard not saying anything. He made the comment to Ben and Julie that a contemplative boy like him is a marvel, to stand like a stump in the field. Finally, she explains the metaphor of the confederate soldier, who was innocent but still hung by the community for being an outsider.

She then continues to give backstory, this time on the relationship between Julie and Ben and how their difference in faith (Julie's strong christian upbringing, and Ben's abusive childhood) have led them to grow apart. Ben has to keep everything inside for fear of becoming his father, and this drove Julie right into Chambliss' arms. After this, she recounts the time that Julie asked her for help terminating a pregnancy, expressing her anger that the pastor would be helping her abort a child until she realized the implication, that Julie and Carson were lovers. Adelaide returns to the present events of the novel, where Julie arrives at her house after the death of her son Christopher.

Clem takes over as the speaker, interviewing Adelaide to find out exactly what had taken place in the church. He reacts strongly to her sadness at the death of Stump, because she was not a parent and so could not know the meaning of loss in the same way that he did. He finds out that Molly Jameson had also been killed in the church. After this interview he heads to Carson Chambliss' house to question him about the night. When he gets there he is startled by a snake in Chambliss' barn, as the two men have a tense conversation filled with threats. Clem reveals that Stump died of asphyxia, meaning that the men had punctured Stump's lung and he suffocated.

Jess is the next speaker as he is hanging out at Joe Bill's house, discussing the death of Stump and whether or not he can get into heaven without being able to speak his confession. Joe Bill's brother and his friend arrive and start taking pot-shots at the boys with a BB gun. Jess runs away back to his house where he finds his dad with the rain barrel that he had broken the day he and Stump saw Chambliss with Julie. Now Ben knows about Julie and Carson, and Jess hears him drinking, drive off and then return.

Adelaide is the speaker, as she is awoken by Ben banging on the door asking for Julie, saying that he knows what she did. Adelaide lies for Julie, and Ben goes away. Julie hears the whole thing and starts to make plans to run away with Chambliss, calling the sheriff to ask for an escort as they go to the Hall residence to recover her belongings. Chamliss is the speaker, he receives the call from his deputy informing him that Julie needs an escort. He then receives a more urgent call from Adelaide, telling him to go to the Hall residence as there could be trouble between Ben and Carson. Jess is the speaker and he hears Carson and Julie arrive, and later a gunshot. He runs outside, only to see Sheriff Clem shooting his father.

Clem is the speaker, he drives up to the Hall residence to see Chambliss' car in the driveway. Ben comes outside in his boxers holding a shotgun. Chambliss tries to back the car away but is shot and killed instantly. Ben fires a second shot into the windshield. The trunk pops open and the snake crates fall out. Ben aims the shotgun at Julie, and Clem tries to get him to put down the gun. Ben sees Jess at the door, swings towards him with his shotgun when Clem shoots him in the neck and he dies. He then calls Jimmy Hall to ask him to come and pick up Jess. When Jimmy arrives he confesses that he shot his son and the two men share in their ironic pain.

Adelaide takes over to close out the novel. at the funeral of Ben Hall outside of Marshall, their town. She notices Jess and Jimmy standing together, and hopes that their future will be good. She mentions that Clem would soon retire, as the events had been too much for him. She speaks about the rebirth of the church, how the newspapers were taken down, and how the services have restarted, albeit without a pastor. Jess still attends the services, even though JImmy Hall does not.

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