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A Dinner in LA

Or, to be more precise – A Dinner in Santa Monica – for LA is a mighty big place. I know it, as it’s my old home town and I’m grateful for every mile or rush hour minute spent to come to the final pre-sale book tour dinner at the very glam Ivy at the Shore. We gathered, booksellers from every corner of Southern California, fixed on food and intent on good book chat. In a private beach front and rose-bedecked room, conversations began with the nature of cults and swiftly moved through every theme of the book, dark and light: the charisma of religious leaders and how and why they lose their way; the responsibilities of mothers and whether it is ever acceptable to abandon a child; the mechanics and politics of polygamy; whether children are culpable for their behaviour; how utopian faiths give way to greed and ego and collapse, inevitably, pulling their faithful down.

There were personal stories about faith and scepticism, belief and disbelief. How is it possible, one bookseller asked, for anyone to seek, let alone believe in, the kinds of absolutes on offer from Zachariah, from the cult he grew? I am humbled by how readers’ real lives meet the lives of the characters in this book. There were sympathies for some characters, but less sympathy for Amaranth, the woman at the centre of the book, who left a world that had let her down and then let her daughters down, cloistering them from the world. As one bookseller said, “When you have a child, all bets are off.” Perhaps that is what I am exploring here, questioning and challenging all the assumptions we make about mothers and daughters, of how families are made and lost.

We also had some fantastic conversations about America’s place in the world: America’s youth vs. European world-weariness, America’s endless enthusiasm for reinvention of self, of place, of faith. America is a place that has never been invaded or conquered by outsiders (and has, indeed, often been the ‘conqueror’) a nation that has never had to compromise. We spoke of how America’s roots in religious radicalism have led to both fanaticism and utopian idealism, impulses that have led to these bright places of hope, these dark places of fear. It was a big and bold book chat, and I am so grateful for the thoughts and ideas so freely shared by all. Thank you to Hachette California sales rep Tom McIntyre for a lovely evening! And to Little, Brown for a lovely, lovely tour.

And here is a heartfelt thank you to these magnificent (mostly) independent booksellers of LA and Southern California! Three cheers for books!
Barnes & Noble
Book Soup
Chaucer’s Bookstore
Diesel, A Bookstore
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
Pages: A Bookstore
Skylight Books
Vroman’s Bookstore
Warwick’s Books

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