1979: Seventeen-year-old Alice Pearson can’t wait to graduate from high school so she can escape the small town in upstate New York where she grew up. In the meantime, she and her friends avoid their dysfunctional families while getting high in the woods. There they meet the enigmatic Jack Wyck, who lives in the rambling old farmhouse across the reservoir. Enticed by his quasi-mystical philosophy and the promise of a constant party, Alice and her friends join Mr. Wyck’s small group of devoted followers. But their heady, freewheeling idyll takes an increasingly sinister turn, as Alice finds herself crossing moral and emotional boundaries that erode her hold on reality. When Mr. Wyck’s grand scheme goes wrong, culminating in a night of horrific violence, Alice is barely able to find her way back to sanity.
Twenty years later, Alice Wood has created a quiet life for herself as a professor of folklore, but an acclaimed filmmaker threatens to expose her past with a documentary about Jack Wyck’s crimes and the cult-like following he continues to attract from his prison cell. Wyck has never forgiven Alice for testifying against him, and as he plots to overturn his conviction and regain his freedom, she is forced to confront the truth about what happened to her in the farmhouse—and her complicity in the evil around her.