The well-told and painstakingly researched story of a religious colony that emerged in rural Maine near the turn of the century. Nelson's parents were part of Shiloh's 25-year history, and she charts the madness and glory of evangelist Frank Weston Sanford and his followers with sensitivity and respect. A novelist (The Last Year of the Way, 1978), Nelson brings dozens of characters vividly to life without resorting to invented dialogue or going beyond the evidence provided by letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, court records, and other reports of the time. The straight story is st tong enough--hundreds of families leave their homes, businesses, and farms ("Not a hoof left behind!" exults one) and turn their money over to the project at Shiloh. They come not only to save their souls, but assured that "their lives were part of a larger struggle on which all human history depended." It was a heroic band, willing to endure cold, hunger, and humiliation, willing to sacrifice their lives in order to carry out their role as ushers of the Second Coming. With astounding energy, they raised a remarkable complex of buildings on a barren sandy hill and launched a schooner that sailed around the world, claiming every continent for Christ. Unlike some experiments in our own time, it wasn't sex or money that ran them disastrously aground, but Sanford's growing conviction that he alone heard the true voice of God and that obedience to him must not be opposed. Nelson's final chapter contains a brilliant meditation on the painful significance of Shiloh. Today as then, she points out, the promise of certainty remains a potent peril in any legitimate search for a meaningful life.