Book review: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Title: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Publisher: Black Swan (Penguin Random House)

Publication date: 5 March 2020

Genre: Fantasy | Fabulism | Adult

Page extent: 208 pages


A haunted, surreal debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal—one that upends our understanding of power, predation, and agency.

Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson. When they strike up an affair, to the displeasure of her father and Samson’s widowed, pregnant sister, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover—and eventually comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.

Follow Me to Ground is fascinating and frightening, urgent and propulsive. In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. Slim but authoritative, Follow Me to Ground lingers long after its final page, pulling the reader into a dream between fairytale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Well. I really don’t know what I just read?! Sitting here, contemplating life, and this book, I think it’s the oddest, strangest book I’ve ever read. And I’m not sure I liked it. But it was beautiful. But strange. And I’m a confused mess who doesn’t know what just happened?

Ada and her father are healers – they have spent their lives healing Cures (humans). They can stick their hands inside of bodies, and sing to extract sickness. In extra special cases, they bury Cures in the tumultuous Ground outside, to await healing. One day, Ada cures a man named Samson, who sparks a fire inside her and they begin an affair. But Ada’s father disapproves and so begins a downfall of events.

This book is weird. There is no other word for it. Fabulism at it’s very strangest, this world doesn’t explain its creation or existence. Instead, the beauty and poetry lies in the prose. There is a very lyrical quality to the reading, and an ease which meant I flew through the book. Rainsford’s writing plays very much with the female body and form, and at times felt very much like it was mocking the way men so often write women. The body horror aspect is always one I appreciate, and was definitely a strength of this book (I did try to read this over lunch one day and managed about two pages before I had to give up due to the strength of the body horror writing).

However, as beautiful as the prose often was, I think the oddness was perhaps too odd for me. I still don’t really know what happened, and I prefer my world’s with a bit more explanation or comprehension about why and how. I also unfortunately think the ARC eBook had some formatting issues which enhanced my struggle and confusion. I suspect this might make for a more interesting and impactful read in the final print format where the formatting will look as designed.

So ultimately, whilst I appreciate the beautiful writing, this book wasn’t for me.

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