If you have ever hated cults—or God forbid, were trapped in any cult-like activity yourself—you’ll love to hate novelist Tosca Lee’s fictional New Earth International.
In Lee’s latest mid-apocalyptic novel, The Line Between, former cult member Wynter Roth, 22, is cast out of New Earth. (Already the Christian’s heart rages, for the cult’s very name is a Satanic slander against God’s future dwelling, as in Revelation 13:6.) Cult leaders proclaim Wynter an apostate and shut the Enclave’s gates behind her.
At least Wynter has started to prepare for this. She has begun to see past the cult’s evils and the lies of charismatic entrepreneur-turned-manipulator Magnus Theisen.
Like many real-life cult members, Wynter was brought into the group as a child. Her vulnerable mother was trying to escape a bad relationship and rebuild her life. And like other escapees, Wynter also fights to adapt to the modern world and healthy friendships as well as the seemingly simple task of thinking independently.
But unlike other cult escapees, Wynter faces an apocalypse—a real one—straight from any cult leader’s worst end-times predictions. In this doomsday, people across America are catching a virus that quickly turns into early-onset dementia. Literally, the world is going crazy. Victims crash their cars and attack one another. Power grids are on the fritz. Somewhere out there you may even find Russians colluding.
As it turns out, Wynter has the only biological samples that could lead to a cure.
Lee mixes chilling, cracking suspense with thoughtful character growth, as readers follow Wynter’s frightening present while also recalling her perma-frosted past. Each character leaps from the page, pressed by experienced storytelling hands.
Tosca Lee has created many multi-award-winning novels in biblical genres, such as Iscariot and Demon: A Memoir, and in supernatural genres, such as The Progeny and The Firstborn. She lives in Nebraska with her husband and children.
Wynter herself feels just like a strong yet self-questioning cult escapee. Her female and male friends provide refreshing support, acting as true heroes, yet bearing very human flaws. Meanwhile, our heretical heavy, Magnus, struts across these fictional compounds, acting like real cult founders, yet with his own especially nasty spins.
Lee strikes other story-and-truth balances in portraying the goodness in both non-Christian and possibly Christian heroes. Spoiler alert: Wynter won’t go straight from false gospels to the real one. But, from a Christian’s vantage, she does meet people whom God has blessed with “common grace.” They not only give good gifts to their children (Matthew 7:11), but strive to care for others’ spiritually abused children.
Other heroes reflect overtly biblical beliefs, such as a fellow escapee who blesses Wynter with simple, firm, and compassionate truth. “Whatever your so-called (or real) infraction, you are not damned,” this woman tells Wynter. “You need to know there is life and love in the world. I’ve seen it. God is far bigger than the Enclave.”
To help someone escape false teaching or a cult, this is exactly what you must say.
These truth glimpses give The Line Between surprising heart-warmth amongst the chill, while its road-trip quest drives fast through mad territory and never once feels bogged down in snowbanks. Even by the finale, we get hints that our heroes have learned that yes, sometimes you must stay preserved from a world gone mad, but for the greater mission of helping others in that world. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, you can’t simply separate from evil people—not even cultists—in order to avoid evil. That very line between evil and good cuts through every human heart.
Sure, we can know such a truth in our heads. But stories like Lee’s (to be followed by A Single Light in September 2019) help us feel that truth. And sometimes they can even help us escape our own false beliefs to thaw in the freedom of gospel grace.
Best for: Teen and adult readers, especially those who dare to explore the ways real people can corrupt biblical faith for their own abuses of power.
Discern: A few swear words and misuses of God’s title; descriptions of violence brought on by an apocalyptic mental-illness plague; acts of spiritual and emotional manipulation, including a villain’s attempted seduction; unmarried young man and woman sleep together for comfort, but without any mention of sexual activity.