cover image Salvation City

Salvation City

Sigrid Nunez, Riverhead, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59448-766-8

The intellectually rigorous and grimly prophetic latest from Nunez (The Last of Her Kind) initially resembles any number of coming-of-age yarns, except that most adolescences don't coincide with apocalyptic flu pandemics and the rise of insular church-cities. Cole Vining, however, is not so fortunate: already struggling with a relocation from Chicago to penny-ante Indiana and the mystery of sexual desire, the near destruction of the human race (Cole's parents among them) launches Cole into a rudderless future of nightmarish orphanages and angelic "rapture children." Rescued by the charismatic and deceptive Pastor Wyatt, Cole is brought to Salvation City, a Christian Mission closed off from the crumbling world. There, Cole's education will resume with religious indoctrination in place of his parents' secular cynicism, and his evolving sense of self will collide with the corruption and hypocrisy lurking beneath Salvation's sanctified facade. The great success of Nunez's book is that the end of the world is filtered through Cole's imperfect perspective, so that the collapse of society is no more devastating than first love, and deeply felt conflict rages as a young man tries to find something worth preserving in a place determined to obliterate the past. (Sept)