Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: "Soil" by Jamie Kornegay

Soil, writer Jamie Korengay’s debut novel, can’t help but feel like the spiritual cousin of Michael Ferris Smith’s fantastic novel, Rivers. It shares its same sense of impending doom, the eerie, pseudo-apocalyptic setting, and one’s man’s world that is painfully filled with living ghosts (although it’s time and place might make it a prequel rather, with Jay Mize being what Cohen of Rivers was before he lost everything). But I feel Smith’s novel is the superior one, although I found myself enjoying a lot of what this book offered, and it was never, ever boring. It shares more with the work of Larry Brown than a writer like Daniel Woodrell or the aforementioned Smith. It is more about a unique place then it is about plot or narrative, and with that comes a few problems that keep this book from being great instead of good. The story begins with an unknown forests dweller, relaxing with his dog in flooded farmland of Mississippi. He goes out in the water to cool off, and witness his dog, almost as unkempt as he is, get shot by an unnamed man. The story shifts focus to Jay Mize, who lost his savings and his family to his now ruined farmland. He finds a body on his land, and in his attempts to cover it up; he of course, makes things worse. We also see his wife and son, try to make ends meet, by her teaching and subsisting on trash TV to dull the pain of uncertainty. But my favorite character here is Deputy Danny Shoals, who is Kornegay’s best creation here. He starts out as a Lou Ford/Nick Corey cop gone insane, but as we find out more about him, at least for me, the feelings shift from fear, to disgust, to finally pity, which is a much more interesting journey to watch than Jay’s, who seems to just be swimming in a pool of misery and paranoia. There isn’t a lot of bad things I can say about this book, as I said, it is well-paced, very realistic, and while a little too much ambiguity (minus a swell ending) is laid too thick, it rarely interrupts with the flow of a engaging story.

Rating: 4/5

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