Wiley Cash and the Gastonia Novels: The Ties that Bind and the Prominence of Place

As one reads the stories of Wiley Cash and looks at his evolution as a writer over the past decade, a singular characteristic over-shadows all the other excellent qualities of Cash’s writing: that is, his devotion to place, the quality that has most shaped him as a writer. In a Bookbrowse interview with Lisa Guidarini, Cash said this about the prominence of place in his writing: “I think place is probably the strongest aspect of my writing, at least I hope it is anyway. When I wrote A Land More Kind Than Home, I was trying to recreate western North Carolina because I missed it so much. I was living in southwest Louisana, and I found myself homesick for those mountains, seasons, and fresh water.” Cash continues, “When I wrote the novel, I got to go back there.” Cash’s three Gastonia novels—A Land More Kind than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad—are all singular efforts of superb storytelling which bring to life a corner of western North Carolina and that take his readers “back there” as well—to a part of Appalachia and the South well worth the knowing. This paper will explore the artistry of the Gastonia novels by Wiley Cash, and offer critical understanding of this rising star in Appalachian literature.