Deep in the earth, brilliant clusters of quartz crystals lie hidden in fissures and crevices—”pyramid-tipped spires huddled together like a miniature city, cracking the light into a thousand rainbow shards…salted with pinpoints of iron pyrite, glittering like tiny stars.” But such treasures can only be found in fractured, unstable, dangerous earth—places miners simply call “bad ground.”
Bad Ground is the story of Jeremy Prine, a seventeen-year-old boy who has been orphaned and who needs to grow up, and fast. His mother, who died of cancer, left him the only thing she could give – a letter. She tells him to find his uncle Aiden. “When you find him, stay with him. He’ll try to run you off, but don’t let him. Do whatever it takes to stay with him. You have something I couldn’t give him, and he something I couldn’t give you. I won’t tell you what – you’ll just have to find out from each other. When you find it, you’ll know.”
Jeremy, a sheltered and timid teen, heads into the world to find this mysterious uncle. He finds him at a mining site where his uncle leads a crew of miners deep in the earth, digging tunnels with a massive mining machine. His uncle turns out to be a terribly scarred, bitter man who is as afraid of the light as his nephew is of the dark. Despite his uncle’s best attempts to cast him off, Jeremy stubbornly perseveres, heeding his mother’s words that he must not give up. Jeremy comes of age, deep within these same tunnels.
As in his other novels, Cramer crafts strong, believable characters that the reader cannot help but care for. Bad Ground is certainly not a thriller, but relies instead on rich symbolism, powerful character development and the promise of redemption that seems always to lurk just beyond reach.
Another powerful and stirring novel, Bad Ground reaches an emotional, satisfying conclusion. Cramer is fast becoming one of my favorite novelists. I highly recommend his books.