Edith Langley, the sharp-tongued first-person narrator of this novel, brashly declares that the account she is about to present of her friend Lorna Villanelle and herself “is the most important story in the Western world!” The reader may smile skeptically, but by the end of this novel, See’s potent combination of social satire and apocalyptic mythmaking compels the reader to feel the power of Edith’s claim.
Edith is a survivor in many senses. The early pages present vignettes of her childhood persecution by her parents, her two failed marriages, her inability to establish herself in New York City, and her desperate return to her native Los Angeles with her two dispirited daughters. After finding a run-down house in Topanga Canyon, however, Edith’s luck begins to change, and soon she is successfully promoting herself as a financial adviser and newspaper columnist. She develops a satisfying--though platonic -- relationship with Howard ’Skip’ Chandler, an ailing financier, who makes her the figurehead president of the Third Women’s Bank of Santa Monica.
Externally successful as Edith’s life has become, however, it is only when she and Skip take a trip to San Francisco that her life truly begins to soar. When Edith is sent by her newspaper to write an expose of a supposedly fraudulent self-actualization seminar, she and Skip are converted to the ecstatic positive thinking doctrines of madcap guru Lion Boyce, and Edith encounters...
(The entire section is 462 words.)