The leader of a religious group, increasingly wary of enemies, takes her followers down an uncertain path in Kramer’s (Criminal Decision, 2012) psychological thriller.
In the 1970s, after spending time in an ashram in India, Malkeeya wants to teach the “Cosmic Love” concepts that she’s learned to the world, starting in the United States. There, she slowly gains clusters of followers around the country by advocating harmony and unity—a “Cosmic Oneness.” Then it’s revealed to her in a vision that she’s from Agape Armonia, a Utopian planet where she and her followers will one day spend eternity. Malkeeya advocates free love and pressures her adherents to tithe half or more of what they earn. But she shocks nearly everyone, including her right-hand man, Master Paul, when she splits couples and families among different clusters, believing that such attachments distract from spiritual growth. Malkeeya is also worried about the community’s enemies, especially after she reads a scathing article on Cosmic Love that implies that it’s a cult; the Jonestown deaths are still fresh in the public’s mind, after all. She becomes paranoid, and she plans an alarming way for her followers to protect themselves. Ex-spouses and grandparents of Cosmic Lovers, meanwhile, use the courts to gain custody of some of the community’s children, but tragedy is still on the horizon. Kramer’s somber tale spotlights the first-person viewpoints of three very different characters: Malkeeya, who’s convinced of her message and bizarre origin; Master Paul, her childhood friend who often questions her methods; and young Poppy, who, with her mother and little brother, escapes an abusive household to join Cosmic Love. Paul is a likable voice of reason, and he discovers paternal feelings when Malkeeya relegates him to a kid-laden cluster. In Poppy, the author offers a fine depiction of innocence; her diary entries are filled with rambling sentences and cutesy misspellings, such as “sychologist.” But Malkeeya is the most intriguing figure: a biracial woman who’s cognizant of an intolerant, divided society while also the embodiment of much-desired Oneness.
A potent story of a religious community, featuring characters that burst with energy.