Review: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

dark-road-to-mercy“The critically-acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, involving 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 appears and wants to spend more time with them. Unfortunately, Wade has signed away legal rights to his daughters, and the only way he can get Easter and Ruby back is to steal 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 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.” – Goodreads

{This review is dedicated to Mira.}

Wiley Cash turned me into an instant fan when I read his debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home. With his second and most recent novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, he has cemented this role for me. It hasn’t had the same effect for all readers. Many people have protested the stark contrast between his two novels. For This Dark Road to Mercy is as light and (dare I say) heartwarming as A Land More Kind Than Home was dark and moody.

What we have here are two sisters who are living in a group home after the death of their mother. Their father, whom they have not seen for years, had signed his parental rights away ages ago. Surprisingly, however, he shows up one day asking to see his daughters. After being turned away, he reappears in their bedroom after midnight and whisks them away on a illicit road trip as he searches for a place the three of them can live happily ever after.

It’s all very sweet, except that Easter and Ruby’s father, Wade, happened to steal a crapload of money from a hillbilly mafia figure shortly before taking off with them, and said hillbilly mafia figure has hired Wade’s mortal enemy, Robert Pruitt, to hunt him down. Also hot on Wade’s trail is Brady Weller, the girls’ guardian ad litem, who is also a former police detective. It’s one big happy family (er, maybe not so much) out on the road down in the South as Wade et al wind a slippery trail trying to lose their dangerous tail.

I loved this novel. I loved the quirky personalities of Easter and Ruby. I loved the loser-trying-to-make-good side of Wade. Brady was a strong, caring character with a back story of his own. Pruitt… Well, Pruitt is just a bad, bad dude. And with the exception of him, and a little bit of baseball bat violence, this book is really just a sweet tale of father trying to make up for lost time with his daughters – albeit in a very out-of-order, against-the-rules way. I did mean it when I said I found this story to be heartwarming, in a strange, round-about sort of way.

Cash writes brilliantly, weaving together the narration of Easter, Brady, and Pruitt and ending up with an exhilarating tale of love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness, and of the different ways we can cobble together what we call family. I’ve read many reviews in which readers were unhappy with this novel – it was not what they expected after Cash’s debut. And, true, this is a completely different animal – but that does not make it a flop in any way, shape or form. It is simply different – lighter, not as dark, not as raw, but gripping just the same. If you’ve read Cash before, don’t pass this up based on readers’ disappointments because of the differences. If you haven’t read Cash, this is a great place to start.

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash. Buy it, read it, love it.

5 of 5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

 

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