Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford. A book review by Antonia Kasoulidou
By Ian G Evans, on 10 May 2019
“This is something Cures don’t know about their curing.
The sickness isn’t gone.
It just goes elsewhere.” (p. 10)
Sue Rainsford’s debut novel Follow Me to Ground is an exploration into the vulnerability of humanity, the desperation derived from illness and the intoxication of desire and lust. The text is riveting, drawing the reader into a world of Cures and Ada’s role in a seemingly desolate existence. There are a lot of different facets to this narrative, each playing a significant role. First, Ada’s infatuation with Samson, a Cure, who has a sickness that everyone can see but her. Second, Ada’s strained relationship with her father, remaining in a state of routine and blind acceptance of her purpose in life. Lastly, Ada’s interactions with the Cures (humans), requiring her help but still keeping her at arm’s length.
There is an obscure, lyrical style to this writing. It allows just enough information to the audience that they become suspicious of the ulterior motive of the protagonist. The preface of the narrative is set in a world where Ada and her Father are creatures, born with the power to cure the sick and rid them of their pain. But, as Ada says, the illness doesn’t just disappear, it ends up moving somewhere else. It was difficult to decide what genre this book exactly fit in. It is fiction, but fantasy didn’t seem to fit its abstract style and it didn’t seem to be set up in the usual dystopian format. It seems to be placed in a category of its own. There is almost a fairytale aspect to it; the darkness entwined throughout reminds me of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
Sue Rainsford experiments with form, playing with the standard prose-chapter format and moulding it into her own style. It felt more like prose with poetic elements added in, along with short character perspectives interwoven throughout the narrative. Ada is a voice that is compelling, lingering throughout the pages in a resemblance of her as a character. She is a child forever left out of the life that Cures live, lingering on the sidelines and viewing a life she is told she can never have.
Reading how she aids Cures feels like looming on a intimate moment, being allowed to view humans at their most vulnerable position; their lives in the hands of another. Ada and her father aren’t the type of healers we know nowadays with stethoscopes and medicine. They also aren’t the type of healers that brew potions or tell fortunes. Their process is different. They tend to Cures by entering their bodies, looking around and searching for the cause. It can get difficult to read at times as the descriptions and process are detailed and vivid, but also captivating to read. It’s also a strange concept to imagine. Allowing somebody to get that close to you. It made me eerily relate to the feelings I have about doctors and the uncomfortable notion of having somebody know that much intimate information about you and your body.
“How do you talk to someone who’s been inside you? Who’s seen more of you than you’ve seen of yourself?” (p.135)
Another concept that I found to be interesting was the idea of The Ground. The healing process of a Cure involved being placed in The Ground to be reborn again, themselves but better. Ada herself was born from The Ground, created by her father to aid him, but something seems to not be right with her.
Desire is an odd emotion, especially unwanted desire. That seems to be a consistent theme throughout this narrative – what occurs when you try to bury unwanted desire. Feelings are a human’s most detrimental crux. It can provide compassion, empathy and love but also desire, obsession and cruelty. It’s easy to pretend and to convince oneself that certain secrets and wishes are false, but the subconscious is inevitably there, slowly dripping them out one way or another through dreams, impulsive decisions or begrudging words.
The ending itself didn’t feel satisfying. I found myself wanting more, more explanations, more development as Rainsford’s writing provided more questions than answers. But, I also feel that’s what made this such a phenomenal read. There wasn’t an explanation given, there weren’t endless pages of exposition. There was just a narrative and a journey that the protagonist takes the reader on. It brought up emotions and feelings that I couldn’t describe. Rainsford, through this astonishing novel, has created a masterpiece.
Follow Me to Ground is published by New Island Books