cover image We Can Only Save Ourselves

We Can Only Save Ourselves

Alison Wisdom. HarperPerennial, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-299614-5

In Wisdom’s captivating if slight debut, a suburban high school girl joins an antiestablishment cult. The night before Alice Lange is expected to be crowned homecoming queen in her tight-knit town, she and her friends break into the high school, and Alice, stirred by the desire to “do something,” sets fire to a float. Then she leaves town with the mysterious Wesley, whose power and charisma holds a spell over Alice and a group of women living in a nearby desert bungalow. The narrative, set in an unspecified past of corded phones, is propelled by Wesley’s “grand awakening” vision of the danger inherent in America’s violent society, and becomes increasingly unsettling fter Wesley claims to know a serial killer responsible for the death of a teenager from Alice’s town. While the unresolved ending and nondescript setting add little to the familiar Manson-esque motif, Wisdom does a good job differentiating the personalities of the women in Wesley’s orbit, as well as the mothers left behind. Fans of cult stories will appreciate this. Agent: Stephanie Delman, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (Feb.)