Ross Simonini’s debut novel stars an Oprah-like guru

In his hypnotic, genre-bending debut novel, The Book of Formation, Ross Simonini tells the story of the rise and downfall of a New Age movement through Q&A interviews between an unnamed journalist and the group’s enigmatic leader. The “personality movement” begins with Mayah, an Oprah-like guru who delivers self-help and psychodrama to the increasingly devoted fans of her television show, Mayah! The journalist is tasked with interviewing Mayah’s adopted son, Masha, who will eventually succeed his mother as host of the show. The interviews, which begin in the ’90s and span 20 twisting years, question the nature of faith, entertainment, celebrities, and, ultimately, the way we tell our own stories. “It’s the responsibility of any subject to help their interviewer adore him,” the reporter says at one point. “They give me curiosity, and in return, I give them attention, and therefore, love.”