After what looks like a mass suicide on the grounds of a cult’s commune in Wales, the three known survivors are forced into modern British life in this psychological thriller.
Romy, pregnant and almost 21, and her two half siblings, Eden, 15, and Ilo, 13, are the only survivors found alive in Plas Golau—home of the Ark commune—when an ungodly stench leads the authorities to the grounds. More than a hundred people have died from poisoning, their bodies rotting in the sun where they fell as they sought help. As the only adult survivor, Romy’s progression from suspect to the freedom of her own small apartment takes months. But despite her willingness to pretend otherwise for the authorities, her true goal is not to assimilate into a world she has been catechized her entire life to believe will soon end. She must find her siblings, who have been placed with her mother’s sister, Sarah, and return to the safety of the cult in its second location, in Scotland, one that the authorities know nothing about. There are some gruesome tasks she must undertake first, however, and she performs these with alacrity. The reader discovers what led to the cult members’ demise as the dark and twisting story jumps back and forth among times, places, and people, covering the 20 years that Romy grew up within the Ark, training for survival and preparing for the end of the world. A confusing mass of detail at the beginning of the book settles into a disturbing exploration of religious fervor and how belief can be used to justify the worst impulses of humankind. Author Marwood (The Darkest Secret, 2016, etc.) has a deft touch in this pre-apocalyptic tale.
A gripping, unexpected novel with graphic elements that are not for the faint of heart.