By the author of How She Died (1971) and others--again with a gritty attention to the political and sexual female consciousness--an invigorating, if curiously foreshortened, scrutiny of a life lived among ""saviors."" Who would save the world? A spiritual leader (an amalgam of the bogus and heartbreakingly human)? Or political activists risking lives and security in commitment to good-guy causes? In 1927, teen-age Madeleine Brewster, nÃ‰e Bessie Bernstein of the East Bronx (her father announced they were ""no longer Jewish"" when Maddy was 11 and they moved to Iowa), was on her way to join, as a cherished fledgling, her parents' peculiar affiliation, the ""worldwide"" Universal Society of Brotherhood, a hodgepodge movement mixing spiritualism, erratically leftist politics and pure claptrap, and financed by a restless handful of English and American fat cats. But then in London there's Vidhya, the ""future Messiah,"" dubbed such by Bishop ""Bobo,"" who plucked him from a poor Indian village. Maddy is mesmerized by this most beautiful of Bobo's boys, and she becomes Vidhya's lover, while Vidhya, both frightened and conscientiously playing out the cards dealt him, studies ""how to live up to my fate."" Alternating with the story of Maddy's growth in love and passion are chapters set in the present, as Maddy, in her 80s, joins comrades of old ""radical"" battles--including a husband in aristocratic decay and a jauntily cynical female lover--as venerated figureheads in a massive American peace demonstration. As for saving corners of the world, what matters in the end, thinks Maddy, is ""love and faith and truth. . .the good guys and the bad guys."" But the guru--the Vidhya she had left 60 years before--is lacked in his own myth. The gilded nonsense of the Society is a flimsy backdrop for a vibrant Maddy, and her politicization is set forth mainly in backward blinks of an eye; but the portrait of young Vidhya is touching and convincing, and this is an intermittently vigorous and impressive dust-off of some spiritual and political idolatries.