cover image The Atmospherians

The Atmospherians

Alex McElroy. Atria, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-982158-30-9

McElroy’s impressive debut novel (after the chapbook Daddy Issues) lands a well-crafted jab at toxic masculinity and attempts to control it. Sasha Marcus, creator of a popular wellness brand for women, is a social media sensation until her foul response to an internet troll gets her cancelled. Suddenly unemployed, at home, and with men’s rights activists demonstrating outside her apartment, Sasha is desperate. So when her visionary if misguided childhood friend, Dyson, reaches out with a proposal to start a cult, Sasha agrees. Housed at an abandoned property, the cult—named The Atmosphere—has one mission: to save white men from themselves. Dyson, a failed actor with an eating disorder, recruits the men under the false pretense of job training. Operations begin with men being forced to purge their food after meals, followed by hard labor around the property and therapy sessions with Sasha. As the pressure builds and a job offer lingers in Sasha’s voicemail, her friendship with Dyson is tested. Things worsen when The Atmosphere appears in the news, and Sasha is presumed to be the sole leader. The author conveys Sasha’s dilemma in rich prose and haunting images, using a finely honed satirical lens. This notable debut makes hay with the miasma of contemporary culture. Agent: Marya Spence, Janklow & Nesbit. (May)