The Shelter Cycle

Peter Rock, Author
Peter Rock. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-547-85908-8
Reviewed on: 03/04/2013
Release date: 04/02/2013
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Rock (My Abandonment) further demonstrates his literary finesse with this intense novel about two people who grew up with a spiritual clan bracing for the apocalypse. The story’s premise is all the more eerie for being based on the real Church Universal and Triumphant, which in the late 1980s urged its members to build underground shelters in preparation for a Soviet missile strike. Rock’s engrossing narrative follows former Church member Francine, who finds herself unmoored when childhood friend Colville Young, also a former Church member, resurfaces in Boise, Idaho. A young girl has gone missing and Francine, very pregnant, and her husband Wells join in the search. Wells is suspicious of Colville, and the quick rekindling of Francine and Colville’s relationship gives the story an unnerving air. Prefacing some chapters are Francine’s written memoirs of the Church, her actions, and those of other members, including Colville, dictated by a hovering spirit called the Messenger. Wells finds these pages, which only exacerbate his anxiety once Francine, near her due date, vanishes, intent on revisiting the shelter where she’d spent her youth. Steeped in foreboding grimness, the real beauty in Rock’s narrative lies not in the carefully revealed secrets, but in the curious humanity within each of them. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistitc. (Apr.)
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