Summary and book reviews of The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock

The Shelter Cycle

By Peter Rock

The Shelter Cycle
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2013,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2014,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

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?

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the novel's title. Though it refers to a phase in the work of the Church, how does it apply to the characters' lives? Where do Francine and Colville find shelter—emotional as well as physical?
  2. What beliefs from your youth did you abandon as an adult? Francine and Colville are able to confront their conflicted memories by visiting well-preserved sites from their past. Which locales from your youth do you revisit?
  3. Was it right for Wells to read Francine's manuscript? What did it reveal about his wife's vulnerabilities, as well as her sources of strength? How were you affected by Peter Rock's use of two narrators?
  4. Were any aspects of the Messenger and her message appealing to you? Which of her ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

One of the most interesting questions the novel poses is this: of the things that we say, which do we believe? And which do we simply believe we believe? Rock makes clear that there is a difference with the juxtaposition of Francine's voice vs. Colville's: the indoctrinated vs. the true believer.   (Reviewed by Morgan Macgregor).

Full Review Members Only (1065 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Tom Perrotta, New York Times bestselling author
A stunning novel about faith and disillusionment and the lingering power of the past. In spare, lyrical prose, and with immense compassion, Peter Rock illuminates a strange and little-known chapter in American religious history. At times, Rock's uncanny ability to combine mysticism with blunt realism is reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor.

Author Blurb Rick Bass, award-winning author
As luminous as it is sinister and innocent, The Shelter Cycle is a book not quite like any other. Peter Rock renders masterfully the ferocity and intensity of bonds between childhood friends as well as adults, coupling also the inescapable loneliness and yet hope within the human soul.

Author Blurb Brian Evenson, International Horror Guild Award-winning author
Peter Rock is marvelous at revealing both the insightful strangeness and the madness erring on the outskirts of civilization, and at showing with great sympathy how quickly we can slip from one to the other. A wonderfully humane book about the weirdnesses that make up people's pasts and the way they persist into the present.

Booklist

Expertly imagined, eminently readable, and inarguably haunting.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Written with a matter-of-fact flatness, the novel becomes indelibly unsettling as it progresses.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

The Shelter Cycle
I had not previously heard of the Church Universal and Triumphant, but I have heard of their leader who was Elizabeth Clare Prophet. They were a church in the seventies, that believed the world would end in the spring of 1990. In anticipation they ...   Read More

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The Church Universal and Triumphant

The inspiration for The Shelter Cycle came from the author, Peter Rock's experiences with the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religious sect he came into contact with while working on a sheep and cattle ranch near Yellowstone Park in the early 1990s.

The Church Universal and Triumphant is a religious organization founded in 1975 by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Its beliefs are based on the wisdom of the "ascended masters," a group of enlightened human beings - "joint heirs with the Christ" - who had once been human, and who now distill wisdom through Elizabeth Clare Prophet. The church was founded to further the goals of The Summit Lighthouse, which was founded in 1958 by Mark L. Prophet (husband of Elizabeth Clare Prophet).

Elizabeth Prophet The ...

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