We can travel a road 1,000 times by day, know every pothole and every bend, but come darkness, we all need some light. In Wiley Cash’s novel, “This Dark Road to Mercy,” readers come to a similar junction in that darkness — stalled between good and evil. Wiley’s debut novel, “A Land More Kind than Home,” was a New York Times Bestseller and, likewise, his newest work, a combination of grit and righteousness, is steadily gaining force.
The title of the novel is appropriate to its tone as a thriller, in addition to its dark thematic elements within. The work is certainly gothic, a message deduced by the introduction of the book. It opens with a quote from fellow Southerner and gothic writer Flannery O’Connor: “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”
In Gastonia, N.C., we meet the Quillby sisters, Easter and Ruby, 12 and 6-years-old respectively, who have just suffered the loss of their mother. Having a distanced to nearly non-existent relationship with their father or his known whereabouts, Easter and Ruby are forced into the foster system. Luckily, they are not wholly unprotected. Former police officer Brady Weller has been newly appointed by the court to serve as Easter and Ruby’s sole guardian.
Unfortunately, news moves fast, landing in the lap of the seemingly lackluster and elusive father of Easter and Ruby, otherwise known as Wade Chesterfield, who is a thwarted and washed-up baseball player. Instead of attempting to seek legal custody of his daughters, Wade takes an alternative route by kidnapping Easter and Ruby. While Wade has unpleasant traits, there is an aspect of his character that is endearing.
When Brady is quickly informed of the kidnapping, his experience and intuition as a detective lends itself to his search for the girls. As Brady searches, new information is soon discovered that leads him down a more sinister path. Wade possesses some disquieting qualities and Brady comes to the realization that he is not the only one searching him out. As Brady grows more concerned about the girls’ safety, the plot begins to gain sharp curves along its already darkened road. Robert Pruitt, a ferocious man with an uncompromising vendetta against Wade, is not far behind.
The story is told from varying perspectives of the major characters — a range of voice in maturity and experience that zigzags to a connected conclusion. While the novel encompasses a gothic quality throughout, the overall themes exhibit the bond of family and the desire to repair the past.
‘This Dark Road to Mercy’ by Wiley Cash Rating: W W W V