Charis welcomes Tara Isabella Burton in conversation with Sarah Rose for a celebration of The World Cannot Give. The World Cannot Give is a shocking meditation on the power, and danger, of wanting more from the world.
The Girls meets Fight Club in this coming-of-age novel about queer desire, religious zealotry, and the hunger for transcendence among the devoted members of a cultic chapel choir in a prestigious Maine boarding school—and the obsessively ambitious, terrifyingly charismatic girl that rules over them.
When shy, sensitive Laura Stearns arrives at St. Dunstan’s Academy in Maine, she dreams that life there will echo her favorite novel, All Before Them, the sole surviving piece of writing by Byronic “prep school prophet” (and St. Dunstan’s alum) Sebastian Webster, who died at nineteen, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. She soon finds the intensity she is looking for among the insular, Webster-worshipping members of the school’s chapel choir, which is presided over by the charismatic, neurotic, overachiever Virginia Strauss. Virginia is as fanatical about her newfound Christian faith as she is about the miles she runs every morning before dawn. She expects nothing short of perfection from herself—and from the members of the choir.
Virginia inducts the besotted Laura into a world of transcendent music and arcane ritual, illicit cliff-diving and midnight crypt visits: a world that, like Webster’s novels, finally seems to Laura to be full of meaning. But when a new school chaplain challenges Virginia’s hold on the “family” she has created, and Virginia’s efforts to wield her power become increasingly dangerous, Laura must decide how far she will let her devotion to Virginia go.
Tara Isabella Burton’s debut novel, Social Creature, was named a “best book of the year” by The New York Times, Vulture, and The Guardian, and her first book of nonfiction, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, was as praised by Tim Shriver as "the most thoughtful analysis of our current spiritual crisis anywhere." Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Granta, and more. She received a doctorate in theology from Trinity College, Oxford, where she was a Clarendon Scholar, in 2017.
Sarah Rose (they/them) is a journalist, musician and advocate originally from Atlanta, GA. Their reporting has been featured on NPR, PBS NewsHour, The Advocate, and Georgia Public Broadcasting. As a musician, they are the vocalist of the rock group Sarah and the Safe Word, signed to Take This to Heart Records and distributed by Warner Music.
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“The Secret History meets The Price of Salt” (Vogue) in this “equal parts dangerous and delicious” (Entertainment Weekly) novel about queer desire, religious zealotry, and the hunger for transcendence among the members of a cultic chapel choir at a Maine boarding school—and the ambitious, terrifyingly charismatic girl that rules over the
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One of the Best Books of the Year:
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Social Creature is a wicked original with echoes of the greats (Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn)." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
A sparklingly strange odyssey through the kaleidoscope of America's new spirituality: the cults, practices, high priests and prophets of our supposedly post-religion age. Fifty-five years have passed since the cover of Time magazine proclaimed the death of God and while participation in mainstream religion has indeed plummeted, Americans have never been more spiritually busy