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Bad Ground Paperback – July 1, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Deep in underground darkness, miners sometimes discover beautiful crystals in "bad ground." This lovely symbolism permeates Cramer's second full-length novel. The day before his mother's funeral, newly orphaned 17-year-old Jeremy Prine is given a letter in which she tells him, "When the time is right I want you to go find your Uncle Aiden.... You have something I couldn't give him, and he has something I couldn't give you." He hitchhikes to where Aiden, aka Snake, works a hard-rock tunnel south of Atlanta, and Jeremy manages to wangle a job. Cramer invites the reader into the life of the rock tunnel workers—hard-bitten, simple men with simple desires—as Jeremy wrestles with change, loss and becoming a man. Cramer (Sutter's Cross) has a delicious way with a pen, whether he's crafting a lush Southern backdrop or offering glimpses of Jeremy's and Snake's interior lives. The sympathetic characters avoid the clichés so often found in CBA fiction, and Cramer somehow succeeds in making the horribly disfigured, hard-drinking Snake one of the book's most appealing characters. Rather than relying on the tired plots and settings often used in Christian novels, Cramer offers an unusual underground world that both repels and attracts the reader. Although a few scenes are too much of a stretch (Jeremy rides a deer; the miners have an encounter with Jimmy Carter), they are still engaging. With its notes of hope, humor and redemption, this delightful book exemplifies what good Christian fiction should aspire to.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Cramer's Bad Ground, a dying mother tells her teenage son, Jeremy Prine, to find his uncle Aiden. Aiden has something to give Jeremy, she says, and Jeremy has something to give him. After some adventures on the road, Jeremy finds his uncle in Atlanta, where he works as a hard-rock miner. Aiden is an embittered, reclusive, and disfigured man who nonetheless takes pride in his work, where Jeremy joins him. The issues between the two are worked out in perhaps too mechanical a fashion--that is, Jeremy becomes a man, and Aiden finds hope, both of them because of Jesus. But Cramer's detailed, enthusiastic portrait of rough men following the dangerous trade of hard-rock mining--a sort of cross between coal mining and highway excavation--is original, and in the end, the novel is almost a hymn to working men. John Mort
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076422784X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764227844
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

DALE CRAMER was the second of four children born to a runaway Amishman turned soldier and a south Georgia sharecropper's daughter. His formative years were divided between far-flung military bases, yet he always maintained his mother's sense of place, remembering the knee-deep snows of Maryland, chasing horned toads in El Paso, or a sun-rippled macadam road at his grandparents' Georgia house. True to his Amish roots Dale skipped college and went to work with his hands, earning a living as an electrician, all the while reading widely and voraciously. The thought was never far from his mind that someday he would like to write books.

In 1975 he married his childhood friend Pam, and eventually they settled in the country south of Atlanta. They have two sons,Ty and Dusty. After keeping the boys in daycare for a year, Pam and Dale decided to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to provide a full time homelife. The decision came with unexpected results when Dale became a stay-at-home dad. He took on small construction projects in the evenings, both for the sake of his sanity and to help make ends meet. One of these jobs led to his first published writing, an article in Industry Week.

Having gained a taste for writing, he decided to pursue the avocation, studying technique, reading books, and writing during his sons' naps. Over the next two years he published short stories in several literary magazines, and in 1997 Dale began work on his first novel. Sutter's Cross was eventually published to great acclaim in 2003.

His second novel, Bad Ground (2004), owes a great deal to the author's own experiences as a construction electrician. The industrial setting is based on a real water treatment plant on the south side of Atlanta. One of the main characters, badly burned in an explosion, gains a unique measure of authenticity from the author's own experience. Publishers Weekly selected Bad Ground as one of the "Best Books of 2004", as did Library Journal and Booklist. The novel also won a Christy Award from the Christian Booksellers Association.

Dale's third novel, Levi's Will, follows the life of runaway Amishman Will Mullet, who must reconcile himself to his roots before he can find true redemption. Loosely based on the life of Dale's father, Levi's Will has also found critical acclaim and netted Dale a second Christy Award.

Summer of Light, Dale's fourth novel, released in 2007, is a much lighter read, a humorous and sometimes poignant romp through the daily grind of an ironworker who reluctantly becomes a stay at home dad to three free-spirited kids, a menagerie of animals and a diabolically intelligent dog.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Cramer is a wonderful writer. In this, my first taste of his prose, I discovered bitter sorrow, sweet redemption, and tidbits of wisdom with dashes of humor.

"Bad Ground" begins with an orphaned teenager named Jeremy. He has his share of scars, but he holds onto an innocent faith in God. This faith is tried and tested when he ends up living and working with his uncle Aiden. Aiden, otherwise known as Snake, leads a crew of miners outside of Atlanta. He's a morose man laboring under guilt and physical deformities.

Cramer fills his story with memorable characters, believable dialogue, and situations that defy description in this review. I was laughing out loud at points, wiping a tear from my eye at others.

Like "The Secret Life of Bees" or "Gap Creek," this story contains many riches wrapped around spiritual themes. Written with grace, "Bad Ground" demands to be read by the masses.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
You know you're having an unusual reading experience when an hour or so into a novel it suddenly dawns on you that you've been utterly captivated by, of all things, the inner workings of a hard-rock mine. But that's what happens with BAD GROUND, which in July deservedly won the Christy Award for a contemporary novel released in 2004. W. Dale Cramer is such a marvelous writer that he manages to appeal to both male and female readers --- no mean feat in the general market and a nearly impossible one in the gender-targeted world of CBA fiction.

With nothing but a duffel bag and $63 to his name, 17-year-old Jeremy Prine sets out from Tennessee to find his Uncle Aiden, who disappeared from the family radar screen a decade earlier after an accident in which he was disfigured and Jeremy's father was killed. All Jeremy knows is that his uncle works in a hard-rock tunnel for a company in Atlanta, which is where Jeremy heads the day after his mother's funeral. His quest is less his than his mother's; in a letter she wrote before she died --- and that Jeremy read after she died --- she urges him to do whatever it takes to find his uncle. Teenager that he is, he hitchhikes and walks until he finds the man who is now known as Snake.

You can pretty well assume that with a name like Snake, this guy isn't exactly elated when Jeremy appears at his work site. But the kid is family, and even though he'd rather forget the family and everything his nephew represents, Snake takes him in and gets him a job with the tunneling operation.
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Format: Paperback
What a picture Mr. Cramer paints. This is a picture of real pain, a picture of promise, a picture of regrets. Do not misunderstand my title. I said that this is a read for SOME Christians. Why? Because there will be people who may read a few pages into it, and say, "AW, God can't work in that way!" But I'm here to tell everyone, even the skeptics, oh yes He does! This is a book for people who have had real pain in their life. This isn't a book for people without a backbone. Need I say more? Oh yeah!

One thing you can't deny is the humor that Mr. Cramer uses in parts of this masterpiece. You also see just how creative one can be. You join 17 year old Jeremy after his mother dies. Her request is for him to find his Uncle Aiden. Uncle Aiden can give Jeremy something that his mother could never give, while Jeremy can give Aiden something that his mother could never give to his Uncle. His uncle is a miner. And with names (or nicknames)such as Geech, Weasel, Nanny, Tunk, and then of course Snake, who is Jeremy's Uncle Aiden, you see a wide variety of vision put into this book! But I wasn't the least bit surprised when the name "Bubba" came up once or twice halfway through!

So, when you read this, get ready to feel something. Don't try to think too much, the book will do that for you. Get a cup of coffee, maybe a couple of homemade cookies to go along with this. Just have a good time, and see how our awesome God works! A very rare treasure indeed!
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