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    Contributors | September 15, 2015

    Mary Karr: IMG Memoir Tutorials with Mary Karr, Lena Dunham, and Gary Shteyngart

    Editor's note: It's been 20 years since the groundbreaking memoir The Liars' Club sent Mary Karr into the literary spotlight with its phenomenal... Continue »
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      The Art of Memoir

      Mary Karr 9780062223067

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5 Beaverton Literature- A to Z
3 Burnside Literature- A to Z

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The Shelter Cycle


The Shelter Cycle Cover





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 Colvilles breathing, trying to match mine to it.  My shoulder felt his shoulder, even though we didnt 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 dont know when youll be able to read it.  Its 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 wed 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 Messengers teachings on robots, and about space colonization, about the Mechanized Man, Atlantis and the Soviet Union.  I couldnt keep up with his talk, and I didnt 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.  Thats 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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ikram, April 16, 2013 (view all comments by ikram)
Peter Rock has written a great literary novel which sucks you in the same way a great pop thriller would. Rock’s prose is totally compelling and the plot is just mysterious enough you will want to read it in just a sitting or two in order to find how it all comes together.

One thing I really took away from the book was how Rock used the, quite frankly, absurd teachings of the Church Universal as a background for the characters’ without making them seem crazy. It goes to show how people we would deem in society as “smart” or “normal” can be susceptible to any bizarre persuasion in the proper context. A very good book.
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Product Details

Rock, Peter
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Literature Folklore and Memoirs

The Shelter Cycle Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.95 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) - English 9780547859088 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A metaphysically haunting, shape-shifting novel that keeps the reader off balance and cant be fully appreciated until its climax."
"Review" by , "Expertly imagined, eminently readable, and inarguably haunting."
"Synopsis" by , Francine and Colville were childhood friends whose families belonged to an extreme religion, the Church Universal and Triumphant, whose members built elaborate underground shelters to protect themselves from a nuclear apocalypse that never came. Reunited twenty years later by the search for an abducted girl, Francine and Colville must reckon with the powerful memories of their former church's teachings, and the haunting feeling of leading adult lives in a world they once believed would be destroyed.
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