Alison Donnelly has suffered for love. Still stuck in the small Northern Irish town where she was born, working for her father’s real estate agency, she hopes to pick up the pieces and get her life back together. Her sister Liz, a fiercely independent college professor who lives in New York City, is about to return to Ulster for Alison’s second wedding, before heading to an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea to make a TV show about the world’s newest religion.
Both sisters’ lives are about to be shaken apart. Alison wakes up the day after her wedding to find that her new husband has a past neither of them can escape. In a rainforest on the other side of the planet, Liz finds herself becoming increasingly entangled in the eerie, charged world of Belef, the subject of her show, a charismatic middle-aged woman who is the leader of a cargo cult.
As Modern Gods ingeniously interweaves the stories of Liz and Alison, it becomes clear that both sisters must learn how to negotiate with the past, with the sins of fanaticism, and decide just what the living owe to the dead. Laird’s brave, innovative novel charts the intimacies and disappointments of a family trying to hold itself together, and the repercussions of history and faith.