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Here, British screenwriter/novelist Brooks (Loose Connections, 1984) evokes the mind-snapping world of the Moonies as a young woman joins the Unification Church in order to get her lost sister back, only to have the grinding reeducation overtake her as well. Art student Carmen gets herself delivered by mini-bus to a seven-day course in ""Divine Principle"" at a Victorian house outside of London: she has a hunch that her missing sister Lucy is there (Lucy sent a note signed with a slogan of the Unification Church). Armored by her real purpose, Carmen tries to endure the onslaught of ""the Family,"" but almost at once the cult's insidious virus begins to work on her--she alternates between a surreal vision of the place and real perceptions. The Moonies seem loving and pure to her at times, singing inane tunes like ""You are my Sunshine"" with childlike enthusiasm; but the next instant, she notices the blanched and distant eyes, sensing that some sacred part of the personality has been expunged. Although an ally appears in Jane, a tomboyish cynic, soon Carmen is battered with a cosmic conspiracy theory in which evil is ubiquitous and every objection pointed out as a cruel rejection of the pure children--or the work of Satan. Carmen fights, but she is hungry, exhausted, never alone; and, as the week wears on, Jane snaps. On the last day, Rev. Moon is revealed as the messiah. While Carmen reels from the rejoicing that is unleashed, Lucy appears. She ropes Carmen into a 21-day stay at a remote house in Cornwall, where Carmen too succumbs to a revelation that extinguishes all conflict, all self. Brooks makes a sincere attempt to reconstruct the workings of malignant Moonies, but, despite some sharp details, her narrative is burdened by the monotony of the Moonie conversion process. In the end, then, the novel sinks to the level of a grim little didactic sketch, nearly as tedious as the brainwashing training lecture itself.

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 1987
Publisher: Dutton