What the Ground Can't Hold
Two Americans are presumed dead and nine people are trapped in a cabin after an avalanche falls in the remote Andes...
Told from five points of view, What the Ground Can't Hold follows:
Emma, an Australian faced with an impossible decision that could see her parents jailed.
Jack, a teenager obsessed with Jack Kerouac, anti-globalism and sex.
Carmen, a tango dancer whose estranged father is dying of cancer.
Pedro, the cabin manager, who's in hiding from his ex-wife.
And Wolfe, an American on a deadly family quest.
With food supplies dwindling, these unlikely companions are forced to extremes and discover they are bound by more than their surroundings – each has a secret that links them to Argentina's Dirty War.
What the Ground Can't Hold is a mesmerising debut about the ways the past closes in on the present, and shatters the foundations upon which we build our lives.
Shady Cosgrove lives in the Illawarra and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. Her memoir She Played Elvis was shortlisted for the Australian Vogel Prize, and her short stories and articles have appeared in Best Australian Stories, Antipodes, Southerly, Overland, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
What the Ground Can't Hold
Author: Shady Cosgrove
Interview with Shady Cosgrove
Question: What inspired the idea of What the Ground Can't Hold?
Shady Cosgrove: A number of things came together. One is that I was spending time in Argentina and I was out hiking where I came across the specific cabin that the entire novel is set in, in terms of setting it seemed like an amazing place as it was in the middle of nowhere as cars couldn't get in and it is a six hour hike in.
Also I was inspired by Argentinean history and weirdly although you wouldn't know this by reading the novel, I was very inspired by Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generation. As a culture we are not very good at apologising and I think it was profound when he apologised and it made me think about apologies. I began thinking about a group of people who are trapped in a remote cabin and they all have something they need to apologise for. Then, that idea worked in with Argentinean history.
Question: Was it difficult to write a book told from five very different points of view?
Shady Cosgrove: Totally! There were a number of rewrites and the book was more than a million words and I worked on the book and cut it back; not that it was ever a million words long but it needed such complete redrafting as you have the same things happening but use different words comprising those events. I had a number of rewrites that were specifically about point of view because there was too much of my voice as Shady seeping into the character. Jack would not be referencing Greek mythology; Wolfe might have got away with it but not Jack.
Question: Did you enjoy creating Emma, an Australian in the remote Andes?
Shady Cosgrove: Emma was the hardest character for me; she is the most important because she kicks it off. Wolfe's character just fell out over the course of six weeks. I spent seven years writing the book and Emma came much later. By the end of the book I was a much better writer than I had been at the beginning. Emma was a lot of redrafting and redrafting although I don't know why, if I hadn't done that the book would have been a much shorter process. In earlier drafts Emma had a romantic connection with one of the Americans and she used to fall in love with Pedro and now she falls in love with someone else… I almost worry that because she involved so much rewriting that she wasn't as clear but I worked with amazing editors and they really helped me find who she is.
Question: Was there a particular character you enjoyed creating more than the others?
Shady Cosgrove: Yes, Jack was my favourite and it's funny because when people read the book they say 'Pedro is my favourite character or Wolfe is my favourite character" not a lot of people say Jack is their favourite character. Weirdly enough Jack is probably the most autobiography.
Question: What research did you do prior to writing What the Ground Can't Hold?
Shady Cosgrove: I spent a number of months in Argentina and interviewed one of the mother's who'd lost her daughter. There are some amazing books released and there is a lot of reading and I speak Spanish so that made it easier. It was the on the ground research along with reading testimony's. It is hard because I'm not Argentina and who am I to be writing this story? Although I think the themes that come from the book are quite universal.
Interview by Brooke Hunter