A Darker Place
Each Tuesday during the Twenty Weeks of Buzz, I’ll post about a different one of my twenty books, with remarks, reflections, and snippets of information about the writing process. This week we visit A Darker Place, which was published in 1999.
Nearly all religions begin with personal revelation followed by a handful of convinced fanatics committed to their beliefs. At what point does an outsider religious movement become a recognized church? When does the description of “cult” no longer apply?
Because religion is a deeply personal thing, it is easy to forget—even to deny in the first place—that it can also be a technical study. How we human beings interact with our own, personal God, the language we use to talk with the Divine, what our beliefs say about us and how they reinforce our social structures are compelling ways to study the human animal.
Anne Waverley is a person for whom the two aspects of religion—the academic and the personal—converge. Her fascination with that juncture at which religious extremism either goes off the rails or turns towards religious conservatism has brought her to the attention of those whose jobs are to maintain the peace. She is an expert in the alchemy of belief. Law enforcement agencies have always had a hard time looking inside a tightly knit group, because they do not speak the language. Anne Waverley does.
Of course, because religion is so intensely personal, because it permeates every part of the believer’s world, it profoundly shapes how the believers treat their children. And in all the clashes between authority and religion, children are the most inflammatory of all the areas of concern.
Particularly when the community under investigation has settled in such inaccessible places as the high desert near Sedona and a mysterious and remote English gardens…
What the government needs is a trained, sensitive, fair-minded individual with the ability to blend invisibly into the group under investigation. A woman, say, who knows her religion both academically and personally. A woman with the background to feel if a “cult” is harmless, or on the edge of ignition.
A woman like Anne Waverley.