cover image We Went to the Woods

We Went to the Woods

Caite Dolan-Leach. Random House, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-399-58888-4

A group of 20-somethings attempt to create their own utopia in Dolan-Leach’s emotionally satisfying but crowded sophomore novel (after Dead Letters). Mack slinks home to the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York after a disastrous stint on a reality show. While aimlessly working as a caterer in early 2016, she meets wealthy, captivating Louisa, who introduces her to mysterious, charming Beau; cold Chloe; and carefree Jack. The quartet recruits her to join them in an experimental anticapitalist subsistence community living on land owned by Louisa’s indulgent father. Mack relishes the physical labor but simmers with jealousy over Beau’s relationships with Louisa and Chloe. After finding a 19th-century journal written by the founder of an Oneida Community spin-off, Mack begins to see troubling similarities between her group’s messy sexual relationships and fervor and the area’s earlier inhabitants. As an indignant Louisa launches a lawsuit against the nonorganic agribusiness farmers next door and Beau frequently and unexpectedly slips away to visit the better organized, older collective nearby, Mack combines eavesdropping, research, and anthropological examination to understand what exactly it is she has joined. Mack’s stoic exterior and sharp observations provide ballast as the secrets multiply and story lines careen toward an untidy conclusion. Readers who enjoy teeming stories with political bite will be pleased. [em]Agent: Amelia Atlas, ICM Partners. (July) [/em]