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An adolescent boy’s life is irreparably changed when his parents join a religious cult.

When Daniel is 10 years old, his parents make the drive from Halifax to Maine to become followers of the Guru, Avadhoot Master King Ivanovich. Daniel and his sister, Violet, spend the rest of their childhood and teenage years attempting to find their place within the Guru’s community, which includes his many wives, his lieutenant, and the spiritual adviser from Halifax who suggested the Guru to Daniel’s parents. Daniel and Violet are home-schooled intermittently, but otherwise any sense of normalcy quickly recedes as their parents struggle to pay their tithe to the Guru, and the community engages in numerous fasts (especially when food is scarce). After several years, the Guru tells Daniel he has been chosen and his new name is Jubal, after which he becomes more deeply connected to the Guru’s inner circle. Jubal is assigned the task of recording the Guru’s followers’ “Leelas,” or the stories of how each person came to join the Guru, a task which proves emotionally treacherous as Jubal learns that the lieutenant is in love with the Guru’s first wife, and the Guru’s fifth wife left behind a daughter whom she has never forgotten. After an abrupt break with the community and his family, Jubal drives across the country to Santa Fe and begins working with a therapist named Ruth so he can acclimate to the world outside the cult and begin to piece together an understanding of all that transpired during his years in Maine. Author Allio skillfully invents a world of ritual, language, and culture unique to the Guru, which is in turns absurd and engrossing, especially as seen through Daniel’s eyes. Though events are often obscured, presented in perplexing dreamlike sequences, there may be no other way to convincingly capture the mystery of being wholly taken up by forces entirely of another world.

An enigmatic and fervent read.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-60938-596-5
Page count: 284pp
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2018


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