Provocative. Chilling. So smart.
Before I go any further with these adjectives, I have to come out as a devotee of narrative. For instance, I avoided Keri Hulme’s Bone People for a decade (more fool me) because reviewers described it as ‘lyrical’. Follow Me to Ground, I can tell you, woke me up the morning after with layer upon layer of teasing association and, yes, ideas … but also (crucially for me) the novel had kept me page-turning for the duration, hand-over-hand along the guide rope of story line.
Non-spoiler alert: I’m giving away nothing here about what happens – that deserves discovery. What we have, though, is in part a Cathy and Heathcliff situation. Not out on the windswept moors though. More interior, deeper.
Realist narrative strings us along on the quest for motivation. Sue Rainsford sees us motivation but then raises the stakes. In an era of artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation, plus the latest iteration of savage Othering, the novel asks: What is human? What is society? In this modern fable, cars pull up at Ada and her father’s house, but we find ourselves in a timeless, locationless setting beyond the outskirts of town. We leave, with Ada, only a few times via a truck into the woods.
Reading fiction – good, satisfying reading – is like writing fiction in that we’re immersed in another world. (As per Karen M, writer and editor, @highveldstudios.) My own image for this is snorkelling in Lake Malawi – fighting the apparatus for a few gulps and then drifting into a new world. Life above disappears. Brilliant shoals of fish flick direction in unison. Breath turns sonar. Shafts of light stripe through water.
This novel immersed me, but not in water. Rainsford cracked it – she had me follow her to ground.