Review by Adrina Palmer
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.
Have you been wanting a new book but been stuck in a rut reading book after book that blend into each other with no distinguishing qualities? Read ‘Follow Me to Ground’ by Irish author Sue Rainsford and find your way out of your book hole and into a sinister and haunting world with thoughtful prose and a hard to follow layout, done on purpose like everything else in the novel, deeply intent on unsettling you, which is why it’s the perfect book to break boredom and induce lengthy stays in bed.
Ada and her father aren’t quite human; they hover somewhere between animal, human, and elements drug in by the wind. They live in a clearing far away from the town and, most importantly, the people they call Cures who cannot understand why, year after year, the odd father and daughter never gain a wrinkle, a pound, or aches. Instead, they stand by decade after decades serving the community as healers with unconventional methods. Their healing powers come from The Ground, not the normal soil used to grow plants but a particular patch that gives and takes with its moods.
To cure people, Ada and her father use inhuman eyes to find ailments locked inside internal organs before reaching in to scoop them out to feed to the unyielding Ground when they aren’t placing Cures in the Ground hoping to wield a little of the magic trapped in the toxic soil. Then Ada meets a boy. Before long, she meets Samson’s heavily pregnant sister. She also gets a daily Cure riddled with menopause and a deep desire for company in her lonely life. Her days fill up with rides down to the lake and Sister Eel, similar in nature to the Ground.
As her passion for Samson – the only person not concerned about her origins – grows, she learns secrets about this human who wants her to reach inside and take out his illness, one also described by his sister. But Ada likes his illness craves, the darkness hiding inside him as it resonates with her nature. By day, she catches tumors plaguing people; by night, she casts shadows on the lake, entwining with Samson only to found out he’s too far gone. She can’t save everyone, she isn’t everyone, though. She’s something different with divergent needs, which takes form in unearthly fantasy and horror as the Ground collects what does not belong.
Folklore takes a dark turn with Sue Rainsford. The story is haunting, beautiful, and the stuff nightmares are made of. It has all the elements needed for a fairytale, including a fierce female protagonist narrating the book, a possessive father unwilling to let his creation choose against his will, and evil lurking from the backyard. Even inside this not quite human story comes beauty and hope with surprising thoughtfulness. Don’t read it late at night if you fear being buried alive.
Interpreting the story will challenge you. It’s perplexing like a mist looming where you can almost see, but the author purposely keeps information just on the brim, adding to the cryptic nature to fuel to a flame. The book is short but powerful as it explores the animalistic side of female nature, ready to devour its prey. If you can’t handle descriptive details of bodies, move on, this book is not for you. Like me, you may find yourself curious to reread the text to see just how many layers lie between the pages trying to flesh out Ada’s pragmatic nature and thoughts so close to human but her desires, not so much.
Available in Bookstores January 21st