Why Joining A Cult of Sustainability Merits Both Warning And Admiration

Aug 29, 2019

In her debut novel “The Ash Family” (Simon & Schuster/ 2019) Durham native Molly Dektar draws on her personal fascination with cult psychology and devout sustainability.

Molly Dektar, like her protagonist, grew up in Durham before seeking out deeper fulfillment through off-grid farming.
Credit Courtesy of Molly Dektar

The protagonist, Berie, leaves her hometown of Durham to go to college, but she never arrives on campus. The young woman, yearning for “a more essential life,” instead chooses to join an isolated farming community of direct-action environmentalists living near Asheville.

Berie’s daily tasks include shepherding, dumpster-diving and bomb-making. She abandonsselfhood by dropping “fake world” names and histories in favor of the chosen family’s fervent communion. The novel follows Berie’s slow plunge into a culture of patriarchal coercion, however Dektar quietly maintains a level of respect for the community’s applied ideals. Host Frank Stasio talks with Dektar about her own experiences with intentional communities and a zeitgeist of environmental desperation.

Above: Molly Dektar curated a music playlist to accompany "The Ash Family" for Largehearted Boy