Litwack’s (Along the Watchtower, 2013, etc.) latest novel tells the story of a mysterious child who abandons her homeland in an effort to achieve spiritual forgiveness in a neighboring, hostile nation.
When star-crossed lovers Helena Brewster and Jason Adams save a child from drowning after her boat is dashed against the rocks, they are captivated by her ethereal nature, her vague and prophetic responses, and her insistence on referring to herself as “The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.” The two are shocked to discover the child, Kailani, has left The Blessed Lands and a faith-based way of life to venture into The Republic, a land dedicated to reason and knowledge and her own nation’s fierce opponent in a series of bitter wars. The government of The Republic, under the direction of chief examiner Carlson, is quick to sequester Kailani and keep her under observation to determine if she is there on an evangelical mission—an illegal action that could lead to her incarceration. Carlson eventually releases her into the custody of Helena and Jason so she can stay with them in an art colony in the Northern Kingdom until her fate is decided by a tribunal hearing. Once there, Kailani becomes the object of obsessive interest to Benjamin, a fanatic who encourages a cult following to grow up around her, placing her legal status and her own safety at risk. Litwack artfully makes use of strange and familiar aspects of our own culture to eerie effect (Jason is helping establish a communication network obviously based upon the Internet, and The Northern Kingdom reads like Vermont). There are some points of weakness within the plot. It’s unclear, for instance, why it takes Jason, who is a communications engineer, so long to discover that a technically unsavvy individual is sending messages on his own machine.
A few weak plot points may appeal to the reader’s blind faith rather than their reason, but this is a fully imagined, gripping read nonetheless.