cover image The Land

The Land

Thomas Maltman. Soho, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64129-220-7

Maltman’s middling latest (after The Night Birds) centers on a man’s search for his missing lover in the winter of 1999 among religious zealots in the Minnesota hinterlands. With Y2K looming, Lucien Swenson takes a job house-sitting at an isolated homestead, ostensibly to recover from a car accident that thwarted his plans to finish college and embark on a career as a game programmer. But the set-up is a cover for Lucien’s investigation into what happened to Maura, his lover he last saw in the summer. Maura was the young wife of a preacher at the Rose of Sharon fundamentalist church, and she lived among other faithful congregants in a cultlike encampment called the Land. After Lucien moves near the church, he adopts an assumed name and integrates into its community of violent, racist believers led by blind matriarch Mother Sophie. As Lucien searches for Maura, he becomes complicit in the church’s preparations for a Y2K apocalypse and the subsequent race war the cult believes is coming. Unfortunately, heavy-handed symbolism and convoluted plotting mar the intriguing set-up, and Lucien’s search for Maura ends up being little more than a MacGuffin. While Lucien is an enjoyably slippery narrator, the work as a whole feels undercooked. [em](Oct.) [/em]