by Jamie Kornegay
Simon & Schuster (2015), 368 pages
Sigh…It is always exciting to read a debut from a new writer before the public does. And I always give a debut author plenty of room to find their voice, usually giving a fair review based on the very best attributes of the story. And believe me, there are more than a few areas where Soil shines, from the highly detailed description of the land and surroundings of a Mississippi flood basin, to the dark, Southern gothic miasma that leaves a film over each chapter.
As debuts go, Jamie Kornegay has displayed a refined talent for writing, and I look forward to watching this author grow. His writing at times reminded of Faulkner, but where Faulkner would leave spaces that challenged the reader’s capacity to understand the meaning, Jamie Kornegay left me with more questions than answers.
The story revolves around a series of characters, each grappling with various forms of mental illness, and while this is not the main plot, it is a subject that is investigated through each character’s actions.
Soil is “A darkly comic debut novel …about an idealistic young farmer who moves his family to a Mississippi flood basin, suffers financial ruin and becomes increasingly paranoid he’s being framed for murder.” ~ (Jonathan Miles, award-winning author of Want Not and Dear American Airlines)
Jay and Sandy Mize don’t find farming to be all it’s cracked up to be. Sandy leaves Jay, Jay goes mad, finds a body on his property, and becomes embroiled in a feud with the Sheriff’s deputy, a greasy man who has a peeper issue, and also has his eyes on Jay’s wife.
The sometimes comical, but always “backwoods”weird plot comes to a boil at the very last, where I feel like I was left with a cliffhanger. I am not sure if there is a sequel planned, but I feel as if the author either thought it was funny to leave it as it is, or perhaps he was trying to be artsy. There were many loose ends I think, and I wish I had some answers. That said, I enjoyed the book, there are signs of genius at times, and while the ending kind of pissed me off, I still found this to be a satisfying read, as well as an introduction to a writer that I think will grow immensely.