The Burning Season

Alison Wisdom. HarperPerennial, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-309758-2

Faith, guilt, and sacrifice play into the quietly distressing latest from Wisdom (We Can Only Save Ourselves). Rosemary, 32, deals with her stifling new life in tiny Dawes, Tex. She moved there with her husband, Paul, two years earlier to join an ultraconservative Christian sect run by Papa Jake. Rosemary agreed to the plan after she was caught cheating, and now she fudges her fertility tracking to avoid getting pregnant. At their church, women are forbidden from speaking to men, nor are they allowed to use phones or cars. Lately, church member’s homes have been burning down—a sign of God’s will, according to Papa Jake. Then, after Rosemary finds fellow member Julie’s baby, Lily, tied up in her crib, Papa Jake exiles Julie and gives Lily to Paul and Rosemary to raise. The plot thickens as Rosemary contends with her new role as a mother as well as the arrival of a stranger in town, all of which makes her question her faith, and meanwhile the townspeople’s animosity toward the church escalates into vandalism. Though the truth about the fires comes a bit too quickly, the tension between Paul’s well-meaning gentleness and harrowing methods of control frame a nuanced, chilling picture of religious devotion. Wisdom turns this into an entrancing conflagration. (July)
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