cover image Creation Lake

Creation Lake

Rachel Kushner. Scribner, $29 (416p) ISBN 978-1-9821-1652-1

An undercover agent embeds with radical French environmentalists in this scintillating story of activism and espionage from Kushner (The Mars Room). Sadie Smith, a former FBI agent who lost her job after she was accused of entrapment, takes an assignment from unidentified contacts in the private sector. Her mission is to infiltrate the subversive commune Le Moulin, which is led by activist Pascal Balmy and is suspected of having destroyed a set of excavators at a reservoir construction site. Le Moulin’s ideas derive from their elderly mentor, Bruno Lacombe, who has spent the past 12 years living in caves. Bruno emerges from time to time to communicate with the group by email, but none of the characters see him in person. In Paris, Sadie seduces a filmmaker friend of Pascal’s to secure an introduction to him. Kushner intersperses Sadie’s tale with Bruno’s colorful claims, such as the alleged superiority of the Neanderthals (their square jaw was a “sunk cost”) and the existence of mythological creatures like Bigfoot (“We are not alone”). Eventually, Sadie learns of the group’s plans to protest a local fair, and she approaches the conclusion of her assignment with alarming amorality. Most of the narrative is dedicated to the activists’ philosophizing and Sadie’s gimlet-eyed observations, which Kushner magically weaves together (“People tell themselves, strenuously, that they believe in this or that political position,” Sadie muses. “But the deeper motivation for their rhetoric... is to shore up their own identity”). Readers will be captivated. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Sept.)