In Wiley Cash’s second novel, This Dark Road to Mercy — following on the footsteps of his exceptional debut A Land More Kind Than Home — 12-year-old Easter and her 6-year-old sister Ruby have been left orphaned after the unexpected death of their mother from a drug overdose. The two little girls haven’t had an easy life, and their father Wade signed away his parental rights a number of years past.
And yet, suddenly Wade appears on the scene one night as he sneaks into the window of the orphanage where the two girls are living, and convinces them to go with him. Brady, the court-appointed guardian of the girls – who has his own cross to bear – begins the search for the missing sisters.
Wade appears to want to make his amends for the past. Easter, in particular, is reluctant to believe or trust him, but Ruby is desperate to have a parent who loves her. The author has us rooting for all three of them as the book progresses.
Wade, for his part, is trying to outrun a mistake he has made that could put everyone’s lives at risk. Through an odd set of circumstances, he has come into possession of a large amount of cash, and the person who thinks the cash belongs to him will stop at nothing to get it back. And that includes using the two little girls as leverage.
The theme of making amends runs throughout the book, thereby explaining the novel’s title. The story is dark, but the ending is satisfying. Cash is another in the line of exceptional southern writers of which I’m so fond. His ability to make a character such as Wade someone of whom the reader actually grows fond is a gift. His dialogue is good and his ability to create a sense of place adds to the readability.
And the fact that this book has a baseball theme doesn’t hurt.
I’m quoting another reviewer when I say that despite the darkness of the plot, the book reads more gently than you would think.