Book Review: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy
Wiley Cash
William Morrow, January 2014

The novel has four narrators. The first and youngest is Easter Quillby, who lives in a foster home with her sister, Ruby. Easter is a wise twelve. The other narrators are Easter and Ruby’s father, Wade, an ex-baseball pitcher, who’s been gone for three years, Pruitt, an amoral and brutal ex-con, and former baseball player, and Brady Weller, a divorced ex-cop with a sixteen-year-old daughter. They, along with the other players live and work in Gastonia, North Carolina.

This is an intense, thoughtful novel about mistakes, relationships, retribution run amok, and fathers and daughters. It’s about how hard it is as a parent to relate to one’s own children and how attitudes in society have such pervasive if unobserved influences. And, it’s a novel about how hard it is to see life, our personal, intimate lives, from other perspectives. As Jessica Weller says, “I don’t know. I’m not a dad.”

There are several threads running through this intricate novel all of which come finally to a kind of satisfactory conclusion. The action begins when Wade decides he wants his daughters back, in spite of the fact that he signed away parental three years earlier. Wade has not been living an exemplary life and he’s not a fit parent, regardless of the legal aspects. When he steals the two girls and begins a multi-state odyssey to disappear and at the same time reestablish a connection with his children, multiple forces of good and evil are set in motion.

The writing is excellent, smooth, evocative, and  amazingly appropriate to the ages and circumstances of the narrators. The author has a fine ear for the language of these characters and his sense of pace and location is also of a high order. At times he is able to screw the tension so high a reader may have to take a break. At the same time, the author continually pulls the reader through the story. Setting, pace and narrative drive are all well-tuned to produce a first rate literate experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.