Rayfiel (Split-Levels, 1994) restores his talent for the religious/sexual baroque to a place it fits perfectly—an isolationist Iowan religious commune, in which a 15-year-old girl begins to see things for what they are. Eve, the Colony girl of the title, is a splendid, sharply written creation: romantic enough to hope, innocent enough to hurt, and wise enough to move on. The Colony, located in tiny Arhat, is ’sixty-two of us,” Eve says, “twelve families, refugees from a world that was out of control, trying to lead Christian lives.” Eve’s mother has a “past” with Gordon, the eccentric leader of the Colony, and charismatic Everclear slugger who perpetually wears shades. This mysterious balance is upset when Gordon announces his plans to marry Serena, Eve’s best friend. While working a summer job on a road crew, Eve has a taste of the real world, and especially of Joey, a wounded, shy, teenaged dream with whom she intends to lose her virginity. While negotiating a peace between Joey and his father Herb, Eve finds herself adored by the father as well, and as this erotic contest is in play, she’s determined to stop innocent Serena’s marriage. She needs dirt on Gordon, and she gets it’somewhat improbably—by working in a business associate’s strip-joint in exchange for information. The Colony is scandalized, and as the wedding ceremony begins, Eve confronts Gordon with her knowledge that he is, in fact, Jewish. She demands a no-fault release from the Colony; once free, she discovers Joey and Herb have left her behind for San Diego. Now fully on her own, she heads for New York City, “where the smart people live,” she ironically adds. In a story strung tight with sexual and spiritual tension, Eve is a pleasure to watch on the page: credibly innocent, crafty and resilient, she rewards the term “plucky” with engaging meaning.