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Bad Ground    by W. Dale Cramer order for
Bad Ground
by W. Dale Cramer
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

When seventeen-year-old Jeremy Prine's mother died, she left him a letter (Jeremy's father died years before, so he is now alone in the world.) In the letter, his mother writes, 'When the time is right I want you to go find your uncle Aiden, and when you find him, stay with him ... You have something I couldn't give him, and he has something I couldn't give you.' At the funeral, he overhears that his Uncle is working as a miner in Georgia. So, with nothing to lose, Jeremy packs his meager belongings and heads from Tennessee to find his Uncle Aiden and hopefully figure out the meaning of his mother's instructions.

The road is harsh and Jeremy learns difficult lessons on his trip. He loses almost everything, but finally ends up at the place where his Uncle (known as 'Snake' due to extensive scarring from the explosion that killed Jeremy's father) works. Jeremy lies about his age and gets hired in the mine before he even meets Snake. When the two finally meet, they form a tenuous relationship. Snake has spent many years hiding from the world, and Jeremy needs guidance to grow into a man. Can the two find common ground? Will they ever discover what Jeremy's mother meant in her letter?

This is a richly written book, filled with evocative language. The setting of a hard rock mining operation may seem dry, but in reality, it's filled with exciting and intense situations. Both Jeremy and Snake have a great deal of learning and growing up to do. Jeremy is secure in his faith, and is able to communicate his beliefs in a way that makes Aiden search for God in his own life. The characters wrestle with significant spiritual issues, yet the reader never feels bogged down or preached to. In fact, I wrote down a couple of quotes in my book journal to ponder over later.

The novel is sprinkled with humor, and its tone never remains too contemplative. Jeremy's deer hunting experience made me laugh out loud. His hopeful outlook gives a light touch to the more serious problems of Snake's guilt over Jeremy's father's death, and his physical deformities. God's hand is shown clearly throughout. Poignant and thought-provoking, Bad Ground will stay with you for a long time.

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