Book of the Week

Soil by Jamie Kornegay. Photo: PA Photo/Handout

Soil by Jamie Kornegay. Photo: PA Photo/Handout

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Soil by Jamie Kornegay is published in hardback by Two Roads.

We all know we can be our own worst enemies, but in terms of the characters in Soil, that’s a severe understatement. Whether it’s pride, paranoia or an unquenchable desire for revenge, everyone seems hell-bent on destruction. But despite the characters’ inherent unlikeability, debut author Jamie Kornegay has managed the tricky task of making them sympathetic too, so that the reader cares about them and their journey.

The main protagonist, Jay Mize, is an annoyingly idealistic young farmer doomed to failure, hounded by an egotistical and reckless deputy sheriff and a crippled elderly woodsman with a vendetta. These three very different men are the driving force behind this novel, which is part Greek tragedy and part darkly comic Deep South romp. That’s not to say that women don’t play an important role, with Jay’s frustrated ex-wife Sandy providing the sole voice of reason amidst the chaos of the menfolk.

The language which Kornegay uses to describe the mud plains of the Mississippi is wonderfully evocative, so much so that the landscape itself almost becomes a fifth character within the novel, providing a perfect grim backdrop for the brutal actions of those who inhabit it.

Soil is invariably a rich metaphor and it’s one which is deftly exploited to maximum effect, with the author using it to explore philosophical ideas about life, death, the futility of man and the constantly cyclical process of Mother Nature.

Kornegay’s keenly observed novel is a bit of a slow burner at first, but it soon builds into a page-turning crescendo and a suspense-filled finale which will make your heart pound and leave you opened-mouthed in horror. This is definitely not one for the faint-hearted or squeamish, but it’s incredibly enjoyable nonetheless.