Picks and Pans Review: Oyster
Outsiders had once flocked to the remote Queensland town of Outer Maroo even though it was not on surveyors' maps. They were seekers, looking for the truth as interpreted by a charismatic doomsday prophet named Oyster. Abruptly they stopped coming. Now, a year later, few visitors are seen, and nobody will talk about what happened at Oyster's commune. Outer Maroo hides an awful secret.
But let there be no secret about this: Australian novelist Janette Turner Hospital writes with brilliance and originality, evoking a suffocating, shimmering, heat-and dust-filled landscape where truth is distorted as if viewed in a cracked mirror. This hallucinatory novel, her eighth, reflects the horrors of Jonestown and Waco and the perverse attraction cult leaders hold for their hopeful followers. The Oysters of this world, observes one character, "know they are chosen and the calm certainty fills them with an intense white light. Moths are drawn to it." Ultimately, Outer Maroo's wall of silence cannot hold. Searching for their lost children, two outsiders arrive one day, setting in motion the violence that reveals the town's complicity in a terrible evil. (Norton, $25.95)