Ordinary Soil

Fiction - Social Issues
288 Pages
Reviewed on 08/02/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Ordinary Soil by Alex Woodard is a multi-layered narrative in which characters Jake, Jessica, Mark, and Adam grapple with personal struggles, family dynamics, and a shared past. Jake, an opioid addict, is haunted by his past suicide attempt and health issues, while Jessica contends with the loss of their daughter Hailey. Amid these challenges, Mark, an oncologist and Jessica's former love interest, ponders his career's value. The narrative is enriched by parallels to a Choctaw boy's defiance against cultural assimilation and a farmer battling an abusive past, addiction, and environmental degradation. A mysterious figure appears throughout the text, and an ancestral spirit, the shilup, delivers a warning about neglecting the earth.

Ordinary Soil is one of those special bodies of work that encapsulates literary fiction through the remarkable use of different mediums to convey a thought-provoking and moving central message. There are three things that stand out to me, the combination of which makes Alex Woodard's novel an immersive experience. The use of symbolism to convey deeper meanings and themes is really well done, whether it is a tractor purchased by a Choctaw boy in an act of rebellion and aspiration for success amidst oppression, or journals passed on to impart wisdom, history, and the importance of understanding one's roots. Woodard is successful in blending supernatural elements with realistic experiences; supernatural events act as catalysts, propelling the characters to reassess their lives and actions. Finally and perhaps most relevant of all is the exploration of social issues such as addiction, suicide, racial injustice, and the environmental repercussions of harmful agricultural practices. I loved it all and am certain other readers will also. Heartfelt. Insightful. Very highly recommended.