Ada is a mysterious girl who lives apart with her father near a villiage who come to them for their healing arts. Ada and her father are able to put people to sleep and open them up, removing illness and disease, and sometimes they even bury them for a time in the strange Ground that is in their garden, essentially raising people from the dead. They have a routine existence, not aging and keeping to themselves, until Ada falls for Samson, a man from the villiage that is home to the people she calls Cures.
But Ada is not meant to mix with the Cures, and her choice of lover worries her father and angers Samson’s pregnant sister. While she belongs to the Ground and her work, her affair threatens to change everything, and leads her to an irrevocable decision.
This is Sue Rainsford’s debut novel, and it’s only a short 208 pages, but it’s something rare, dark and strange. I sat down and read it on one sitting. Ada is strange, otherworldly, enigmatic. We peice her and her life together slowly, with things falling into place as we read, with Ada as our narrator, drawing us into her world. I love that though the whole story is told, there’s a lot about the workings of the created world that we don’t know.
Rainsfords writing is a little like poetry or at least poetic, her language earthy, in the sense of actual earth. The scent of the Ground that Ada and her father live next to suffuses their lives, the narrative, seems to creep up the walls. It’s a dark, lush earth, but though it’s life giving, it’s also haunting.
The story is probably best descrived as magic realism, the real and everyday world yet suffused with magic and fairytale. There is a thread of dark magic through this book, but perhaps more importantly, it’s a book with a dark, visceral beating heart. The characters talk about slugs and earth, they open people up and remove squelching diseased lungs, they heal but they are not compassionate. It’s all a bit grisly. Ada wonders at times what her lovers insides look like, because to her the inside is as ordinary as the outside.
I think you could safely define this book as a horror story, but I think there’s something deeper than that simple genre too. Rainsford is exploring ideas of body, nature, sexuality, and femaleness, and the book sometimes is a littler surreal. This is no simple horror, but one that plays intelligently on deeper ideas. I really enjoyed this book, because I liked the idea of strange healers living in the woods, and I loved the explained and unexplained. However, I think, while the ending works well, I am not sure that I understood it. I won’t spoil it here, but it feels like something is revealed to Ada that she didn’t know, but it’s not shocking because we already knew it. I kept wondering if maybe I missed something? If you read this book, I’d love to know what you think of the ending and what you think it means. All in all, I really enjoyed this, and if you like dark, odd but poetic stories, you’ll like this too.
Read It If: a dark fairytale with visceral visuals and the scent of wet earth throughout, Follow Me To Ground is an excellent debut novel, and should please those who love macabre and enigmatic reads.
Another big thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own, honest thoughts and feelings.
Follow Me To Ground is out January 2020.