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Soil: A Novel based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
3.5 stars I just read a book called Judging a Book by Its Lover, in which Lauren Leto provides five-word slogans to summarize books by a variety of classic and contemporary authors. (My favorite: William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury = "Dilsey saved all their asses.") My five-word summary of Jamie Kornegay's Soil? Crime and Punishment in Mississippi. To be fair, Kornegay expects the comparison; at one point, we learn that our protagonist, Jay Mize, has "a dog-eared Dostoevsky" on his bookshelf. Unlike Raskolnikov, however, Jay hasn't actually killed anyone, so his building paranoia, lacking any grounding in a guilty conscience, appears to be the product of mental illness. Narratives about the mentally ill can be interesting, as Soil is, but they generally do not lead the reader to identify with or inhabit the skin of a character in the way that great literature does. At bottom, Soil doesn't ask anything of the reader; it is the reading equivalent of an episode of Hoarders. The reader's attempt to relate to Jay is further hampered by a massive sub-plot in which one of Jay's suspected pursuers, Sheriff's Deputy Danny Shoals, falls in lust with Jay's estranged wife Sandy. (The explanation for Shoals's vanity license plate, SUGAR, is particularly cringe-inducing.) While Shoals's pursuit of his wife does lend credence to Jay's advancing paranoia, Kornegay could have accomplished his purpose without all of the details about Shoals's sexual proclivities. At the beginning of the book, we are charmed by Jay's obsession with the soil, with his desire to create the best environment in which to grow food after what he sees as the coming environmental apocalypse. By the end, however, we are merely dispassionate observers of a crumbling mind. TRIGGER WARNING: Dogs were killed during the writing of this book. I received a free copy of Soil through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.