The Burning Season, the second novel from Alison Wisdom (We Can Only Save Ourselves), is a mesmerizing and eerie portrait of faith, marriage and desire. For as long as Rosemary can remember, she's always wanted more, which is the only way she can explain what drives her to keep cheating on Paul, her beloved husband and well-established "good guy." Desperate for his forgiveness, Rosemary agrees to follow him to an ultraconservative Christian sect in Texas where men like Paul and pastor Papa Jake always have the last word. But as fires begin to ravage the area and Rosemary doesn't become pregnant with the child Paul so desperately wants, tensions within her marriage, her community and herself escalate fast.
With emotional nuance and atmospheric resonance, The Burning Season offers a new angle on Wisdom's previous subject matter: the intense and at times unsettling interior lives of women. Rosemary's desires are palpable, just as her motives are often mysterious, and it is this internal tension, even more than the external mystery of the fires or the pressures of the cult she finds herself in, that drives the story forward. Paul's menacingly gentle superiority hovers over her already disquieting compulsory environment, as Rosemary herself gets closer and closer to combusting. While Paul's tendency to both charm and unnerve works as an apt metaphor for the appeal of religious fanaticism, it is an even better portrait of the subtle power relations and the pleasure of submission in a marriage. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor