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Two households headed for a violent intersection: a devastated farm family and an apocalyptic cult. Here are people driven to the edge, forced to draw the line that can't be crossed and learn what happens after you cross it.
Albert Stille has brought his wife Ingrid and their children to a family home on the North Dakota prairie after an accident on-the-job left him disabled and unable to work. He's been denied any compensation or disability benefits, and his sense of injustice along with his head injury have left him subject to periods of uncontrolled rage. Little annoys him more than the nearest neighbors--a bunch of hippies, as far as he's concerned. But in fact something more sinister is happening down the road where a cult leader named Ned controls his followers and prepares them for war.
The ensuing explosion is like a fragmentation bomb that wounds even at a distance. It sends survivors in all directions: children who were born into the cult and knew nothing different; adults who made the choice; families of murder victims; and Ingrid.
Each survivor guides the reader through a harrowing descent into betrayal, violence, and their aftermath.
Some, not all, will prevail. All must try to find a new way to live.
Diane Lefer/Radiant Hunger
Diane Lefer's multi-POV novel, written in a cutting, harshly direct Midwestern idiom, deals knowingly, and at times rapturously, with such American verities as religious fanaticism, child abuse, depression, schizophrenia, and the unbelievably cold and endless winters of the Northern plains. There are many plot echoes of Waco -- a religious cult and its sinister leader, Ned Christian Love, is at the center of the fragmented story. Lefer's characters all have a rough time. Some make it, and some don't. Their luck is so hard that the book can be painful to read, like scouring your mind with lye. Some of the best writing is ambient, dealing with aspects of landscape or weather. Here is Lefer's description of summer lightning on the high plains:
Where the lightning storms struck like electroshock. The thunder broke you and with nothing to block it you couldn't tell if the light was coming up from the earth or down from the sky . . . bolt after bolt that didn't announce the rain but seemed enflamed by it, by the enormity of it, fire outraged by water. (9).
Lefer has won awards for her short fiction and has read at the KGB Bar. A chapter from this novel is anthologized in The KGB Bar Reader. She has also published a collection with Zoland Books.
May 25, 2001
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