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The Shelter Cycle

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Overview


An American original, Peter Rock brings our strangest beliefs to vivid and sympathetic life in this haunting novel inspired by true events.

The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religion that predicted the world could end in the late 1980s. While their parents built underground shelters to withstand the impending Soviet missile strike, Francine and Colville played in the Montana ...

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The Shelter Cycle

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Overview


An American original, Peter Rock brings our strangest beliefs to vivid and sympathetic life in this haunting novel inspired by true events.

The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religion that predicted the world could end in the late 1980s. While their parents built underground shelters to withstand the impending Soviet missile strike, Francine and Colville played in the Montana wilderness, where invisible spirits watched over them. When the prophesized apocalypse did not occur, the sect’s members resurfaced and the children were forced to grow up in a world they believed might no longer exist.

Twenty years later, Francine and Colville are reunited while searching for an abducted girl. Haunted by memories and inculcated beliefs, they must confront the Church’s teachings. If all the things they were raised to believe were misguided, why then do they suddenly feel so true?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rock (My Abandonment) further demonstrates his literary finesse with this intense novel about two people who grew up with a spiritual clan bracing for the apocalypse. The story’s premise is all the more eerie for being based on the real Church Universal and Triumphant, which in the late 1980s urged its members to build underground shelters in preparation for a Soviet missile strike. Rock’s engrossing narrative follows former Church member Francine, who finds herself unmoored when childhood friend Colville Young, also a former Church member, resurfaces in Boise, Idaho. A young girl has gone missing and Francine, very pregnant, and her husband Wells join in the search. Wells is suspicious of Colville, and the quick rekindling of Francine and Colville’s relationship gives the story an unnerving air. Prefacing some chapters are Francine’s written memoirs of the Church, her actions, and those of other members, including Colville, dictated by a hovering spirit called the Messenger. Wells finds these pages, which only exacerbate his anxiety once Francine, near her due date, vanishes, intent on revisiting the shelter where she’d spent her youth. Steeped in foreboding grimness, the real beauty in Rock’s narrative lies not in the carefully revealed secrets, but in the curious humanity within each of them. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistitc. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"A remarkable, empathetic exploration of the nature of faith, meaning and happiness."
—Laura Miller, Salon

"A beautifully lyrical, brooding and haunting tale of faith and faithfulness on the edge of civilization as we know it."
Shelf Awareness

"Peter Rock further demonstrates his literary finesse with this intense novel about two people who grew up with a spiritual clan bracing for the apocalypse. . . The real beauty in Rock’s narrative lies not in the carefully revealed secrets, but in the curious humanity within each of them."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A metaphysically haunting, shape-shifting novel that keeps the reader off balance and can't be fully appreciated until its climax."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Expertly imagined, eminently readable, and inarguably haunting."
Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
A metaphysically haunting, shape-shifting novel that keeps the reader off balance and can't be fully appreciated until its climax. In the "Acknowledgments" following the novel, Rock (My Abandonment, 2009, etc.) calls this "a more interpersonal, bewildering, educational and emotional experience than anything I have ever written." Readers will likely not only understand those feelings, but share many of them. Like his previous novel, this one reflects considerable research on the fringes of society, specifically the apocalyptic sect of the Church Universal and Triumphant, which preached that the world would end in the late 1980s. It didn't. Yet fortified underground survival shelters remain, as do some believers. The novel reunites a man and a woman who were close as children when raised within the church. Francine is married and pregnant, with her present life with her husband, Wells, seeming to have little connection with her childhood past. A neighbor girl goes missing and is feared dead, and Francine helps with the search. Inexplicably (at least with no explanation that Wells or the reader can initially accept), the friend she hasn't seen for decades appears seemingly from nowhere to help with the search, and her bond with him quickly seems stronger than the one she shares with her husband. With that setup, the novel then alternates among different types of chapters: a document Francine writes in remembrance of her experience with the church--perhaps to make sense of her life for her unborn child or even for herself, but found by Wells after Francine disappears--as well as ones that trace the pilgrimage of her friend Colville, the flight of Francine, the mysteries that Wells must resolve and the appearance of some sect leaders, at least one of whom suggests a divine purpose that strains the reader's credulity but makes perfect sense to Colville. And to Francine? She finds "the Teachings still inside her, waiting to be brought into practice, to surface," as "here she was again, circling back, a person with a person inside her." Written with a matter-of-fact flatness, the novel becomes indelibly unsettling as it progresses.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544289635
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 942,723
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author



PETER ROCK is the author of five previous novels, most recently My Abandonment, and a collection of stories, The Unsettling. He teaches writing at Reed College.
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Read an Excerpt

1

When I was out by myself in the mountains, I liked to think he was somewhere in the trees.  I hiked up the canyons, over the ridge and under the pines and aspens to a place where an old cabin had been.  It was only a stone chimney and foundation, all broken down.  I tore out long grass for a bed, then stepped through the doorway, a gap in the stones with no walls on either side. 

I could hear dogs barking, far away, when I closed my eyes.  I heard the stream nearby, the wind in the leaves above.  And I heard my name.  Francine, Francine. 

He stood in the doorway.  Wearing his dark blue Cub Scout shirt, the patches on his pocket and his jeans with holes in the knees.  Colville Young.  He pretended to knock on the door, then stepped inside and stretched out next to me on the bed of grass.  We were ten years old, eleven.  He was shorter, and his arms were too long for his body, and his hair was almost white, even lighter than mine.

High above, the aspens’ leaves slapped, the blue sky bright between them.  I listened to Colville’s breathing, trying to match mine to it.  My shoulder felt his shoulder, even though we didn’t touch.  I turned my neck, his ear so close to my mouth.  When I moved my fingers, down along my side, they touched his, and we both pulled away. 

Eyes closed, we listened to the stream, its liquid sounds the voices of Undines, the nature spirits who served water.  I imagined all the Elementals looking down at the two of us, on our bed of green grass.  They were the servants of God and man in the planes of matter, which is where we were living, where they protected us.  The Undines in the water, and the spirits that served the fire element, called Salamanders.  Elementals of the earth were Gnomes.  Those of the air, Sylphs.

The thoughts we had, out in nature, were actually the Elementals making their wishes seem like ours.  We built tiny homes for them, filled with quartz crystal, in the little caves of the splintery cliffs.  The Elementals were part of the reason our parents let us play alone out there.  Our parents, they had so much to do, so many preparations to make.  It was fortunate for everyone that we had spiritual protection.

What you are reading is the beginning of a letter.  It is a letter to you, though I don’t know when you’ll be able to read it.  It’s also a letter to myself, to remind me of those things I might try to forget, like how it felt in those days when I was a girl, out in the mountains with Colville.

Colville and I followed deer paths, and we had our own paths, too.  We walked side by side and then he went out in front with a stick, in case of rattlesnakes.  As we came over the ridge, a dry wind slipped around us, and we started down the other side.  The sky was wide and everywhere, full of things we could not see. 

Sagebrush and cactus grew up the rock walls toward us.  Far below, cars and trucks slid by on highway 89, back and forth to Yellowstone Park.  The dark river ran along next to the highway. 

When we forked over into another canyon I caught a glimpse of Mount Emigrant, far away, where the pattern of the dark trees and the white snow made a kind of seahorse.  I always looked for that.  When I saw it, I knew I was close to home.

Around us, gray metal doors cut into hillsides.  White ventilation pipes hooked out of the ground.  Down the slope I could see people loading all the supplies we’d need into half-buried boxcars and, further away, some adults atop a greenhouse, fighting with heavy plastic sheets that were blowing up and down.  The rickety houses and trailers we passed were all painted shades of purple and blue.

Colville was talking about the Messenger’s teachings on robots, and about space colonization, about the Mechanized Man, Atlantis and the Soviet Union.  I couldn’t keep up with his talk, and I didn’t try.  I watched the sky.  I knew that Forcefields were drifting by, like floating minefields in the sea, that they could shift our moods and our energy so quickly.  It made me feel vulnerable and also like I had to stay focused, to keep my energies in the right place, my attitude and intentions good all the time.  That’s what I was trying to do, what Colville was trying, what the Elementals were helping us with.

The country opened up as we came out of the canyon.  It was so windy in the open; we always had dust in our mouths.  We kept walking, past an old tepee my dad had set up, past round oil tanks that were waiting to be buried.  People would live inside them, once the world all around us was no longer here. 

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2013

    I liked Rock's earlier novel 'My Abandonment', so I got this new

    I liked Rock's earlier novel 'My Abandonment', so I got this new one when I saw it recommended for me based on my previous purchases (I guess). I was not disappointed. This author writes about people who are kind of weird, but also they are like somebody you might know too. The two main characters used to be super close when they were kids and their families were involved in a sort of doomsday religion. As adults they've taken different paths, but when they meet again, they are each trying to figure out how the stuff they experienced as kids fits into their adult lives.The story moves between the characters' pasts and presents; and not everything that happens follows the laws of physics, but I think that's part of the point. There's some magic or mystery or - whatever you want to call it - wandering at the edges of life and that's where things get truly interesting.

    I recommend reading this novel if you like stories that get inside your head by showing you how it feels inside other peoples' heads.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    SilhouetteClan~ Camp

    Join Here

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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