BOOK REVIEW: Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford

It seems cliché to say – or perhaps redundant to note, but there truly is a magic to magical realism. A genre that teaches us as much as it turns tales of fantasy and fiction. ‘Follow Me to Ground’ by Sue Rainsford is a short novel of such proportions. Bound in imagination and riveting from start to finish, Rainsford dips into the magical as easily as she works with the ‘weird’. Unsettling although never falling into the realm of blood splattering horror, the story is an intriguing one – Rainsford keeping the tension high throughout.

Within the pages we come across Ada and her father. But there is nothing ‘normal’ about their lives – they are unlike anything on this earth – perhaps because unlike mere mortals, they are of the earth; Ada born from The Ground below. Her body moulded and fashioned by her father, him grown from dirt too (her father also a creature who bends down and runs on all fours once the sun has set).

Restorative powers abound, the townsfolk, known by Ada and her father as ‘Cures’, come to see them for healing. But it is not of the medical – of the scalpel and the drug – rather Ada and her father tend to the sick by entering their bodies. Quite literally opening them up and routing around inside. It is a squeamish concept for sure, but one that is unique – Rainsford’s prose only serving to enhance the strange experience;

I peeled back the wet slap of her womb. The baby was still in evidence, like the unevenness to grass where some animal has stopped to graze”.

They too – put ‘Cures’ into an overworked patch of ground for cases that stretch beyond their limits, bringing them up once they are healed.

It’s an intriguing set-up; and one that remains so throughout. But there is more than just the curative. The driving narrative to ‘Follow Me to Ground’ is Ada and her fixation with a local Cure, Samson, and his ever increasingly troubled life. Rainford weaves in the hook through Ada and Samson’s relationship – one that only becomes more complicated with the introduction of his pregnant sister Olivia. I won’t give spoilers, but Rainsford pulls the whole piece toward a thrilling crescendo.

A short read – perhaps my only wish here is that I selfishly wanted more from the novel; an expansion of the unsettling world that Rainsford has created. But that is minor compared to what we’re given. A deliciously odd debut that never wavers in its strangeness and is all the better for it. I often believe you shouldn’t explain your ‘weird’ – let it live, don’t unpack it too much, and ‘Follow Me to Ground’ works all the better for it.

A tale of the physical and the moral, desire and dominion – with moments of exploration via other lessor known characters (who shed light on Ada and her father) ‘Follow Me to Ground’ is a clever piece of fiction – and a worthy read for anyone who enjoys the disturbed.

Follow Me To Ground is published by New Island Books and is available here.

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Sue Rainsford

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Sue Rainsford holds an MFA from Bennington College, Vermont, and is a recipient of the Arts Council Literature Bursary Award as well as the VAI/DCC Critical Writing Award. Follow Me To Ground is her first novel. She lives with her partner in Dublin.

Reviewed by Emily Harrison

The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition

Mallum Colt, proprietor of Colt’s Curiosity Shop, invites authors to explore the sinister shadows and crooked streets of his once splendid town of Shallow Creek.

Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.

These items shall act as a source of inspiration as Mallum Colt guides his guests through Shallow Creek and reveals the secrets and stories of a town bereft of sleep.

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