This spring, several titles explore the effects of cults and communes in ways that range from the supernatural to firmly grounded in reality.
Bloomsbury's The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante is based on the author's own experiences growing up in a religious commune, where she lived until the age of 15. In Galante's debut novel, Honey and Agnes are close friends who have been raised in the Mount Blessing religious commune. Honey hates the commune's restrictiveness, and when Agnes's grandmother forces the girls to leave the commune, they get an unsettling taste of the outside world. Bloomsbury has announced a 75,000-copy first printing for the May title, and Galante will tour in several cities.
Author Sam Mills, who makes her U.S. debut with The Viper Within (Knopf), has firsthand experience with cults, having joined (and left) one in her youth. In her book, Jon, a devout Christian teen, becomes disillusioned with his faith and is drawn to Jeremiah, a classmate who has put together a small, all-male “religion” called the Brotherhood of the Hebetheus. Under Jeremiah's direction, the group plots to kidnap one of Sam's classmates, whom the leader believes is part of a terrorist cell. This June title will be featured as part of Random House's “It's a First” promotion, which highlights debut novels.
At Simon & Schuster, the cult setting gets a dose of horror this month in The Unspoken by Thomas Fahy (who penned the adult horror novel Night Visions). The book's prologue explains how a group of children escaped the Divine Path religious cult that they were brought into by their parents. Before the children burned down the compound, the cult's leader promised them that they would each die from whatever they most feared. And when the novel begins five years later, it seems that time has arrived. S&S hopes The Unspoken will broaden Fahy's existing horror fan base, and the author will participate in the Simon Pulse Blogfest this March.