Palm Beach Post, BuzzFeed, and LitHub’s Most Anticipated of 2020
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 fairy tale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.
Brimming with dark folklore and underworld energy, Rainsford's stellar debut features a memorable heroine chafing against her monstrous isolation. Ada and her father are vegetal creatures born of the Ground, a special patch of hungry earth that "gorge on bodies" and shapes "them to its own liking." They are strange, slowly aging beings who live apart from the human population, or "Cures," but are tolerated for their extraordinary healing capacity. Ada and her father can open up bodies and sing away sickness; the most serious cases are put into the Ground to heal, though the results are unpredictable. Rainsford excels in describing the grotesque beauty of this alternative medicine in which the humming healers feel their "way to the pitch of hurt." The novel alternates between short sections in which various Cures describe their impressions of Ada, the lonely young creature with an "unseeded" heart, and Ada's own narration of her rapturous affair with a young man named Samson. Ada tries to hide the romance from her disapproving father, who sees Samson's longing for Ada, as well as his intense relationship with his pregnant sister, Olivia, as indicative of a diseased nature too poisonous even for the Ground to cleanse. This is a subtle, unsettling novel in which desire is an ineradicable sickness that can be preferable to health.