This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The town of Gastonia is a real place, but one hopes that Cash is only highlighting the people and places that are, well, not on the official town tour. As with A Land More Kind Than Home the characters here are just going through life - sometimes with hope, more often in some way with no hope.
Once again we have a father who is a failure, both at life and in sports (here, baseball). Wade has no relationship with his daughters, not just because he left but because he also gave up his parental rights. So why does he want back into their lives? Is it because their mother is dead, or is there something else going on? Easter, his elder daughter, seems wise behind her years and provides us with a realistic point-of-view on her father and what's going on. The two other POVs feel somewhat muted, with motivations and lives that aren't fully explained or realized. That's actually not a bad thing, because too much "real" would be truly too much.
Given the near poverty of the main characters, setting this in the 80s wasn't necessary - not having cell phones would have been plausible. The backdrop of the Sosa/McGuire home run contest didn't really add to the plot (and with what we know now about the doping, seems wrong - although at the time it was exciting). My hope is that the next Wiley Cash book is set more today, whether or not technology plays a part.