In the opening pages of this novel, an accident brings a young girl to the attention of the Preacher, the all-powerful leader of a religious cult secluded in the jungle. Trina has only dim memories of the life she lived with her mother before they joined the community and the closed, close society is all she knows. When she is singled out for special favour, it becomes clear that the gaze of the Preacher can be a dangerous thing. As the Preacher’s behaviour and the demands he places on his followers become more extreme, Trina’s mother begins to question her faith in the charismatic but fatally flawed leader and to dream of an escape from his control.
In this powerful re-imagining of the infamous Jonestown tragedy, D’Aguiar writes with the lyrical intensity of a poet, examining the motivations and obsessions that lead to religious fanaticism. This is a novel about the betrayal of faith and of innocence, a story about love, devotion and mania that is a brave attempt to understand the reasoning of people who would, in the end, kill their own children in the prelude to a mass suicide that shocked the world. Although history tells us that the ending of this story can never be anything other than a tragedy, D’Aguiar’s compassion, and his ability to draw the reader into the intimate and terrible reality of lives lived at the whim of a corrupt and dangerous cult leader, ensure that in the end this is a story of hope.
‘D’Aguiar creates a suffocating atmosphere that explores the use of charisma and religious fanaticism as tools of repression. Most powerful of all, he takes a well-documented atrocity and tells it in a new and arresting way. You can’t teach if the people won’t listen, and D’Aguiar demands that we listen.’
Amy Driscoll, Miami Herald