cover image Soil


Jamie Kornegay. Simon & Schuster, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5081-1

Rural Mississippi is the setting for Kornegay’s beautifully written first novel, in which James “Jay” Mize invests all his family’s assets into an experiment in soil-free farming, a concept he believes will revolutionize the farming industry and save the world. He convinces his wife, Sandy, of its promise, and she enthusiastically works to make his project succeed. However, bad weather and a family tragedy handicap the endeavor, and Jay faces bankruptcy. In his dejection, he begins having paranoid fantasies, which compel Sandy to regretfully take their son, Jacob, back to town to live temporarily with her father. Jay and Sandy struggle with the breakup of their family and their difficult circumstances. When Jay finds a corpse on his land after an August rain, he believes it came to be there as part of a conspiracy to ruin him. As a result, he initiates a chain of tragic events affecting him, his family, and others. Penetrating characterizations and a well-charted story bode well for future work from this author. [em]Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.) [/em]