Title: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Author: Stephanie Oakes
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
'Crime is never preventable because the mind is always bored..."
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a debut novel that cut to the heart of me. It was deeply intense, poignant, and personal. I've been looking forward to this book since before it got a cover, so when I saw that it was available through my local library system, I just had to order it.
I don't know if I've ever told you guys this, but a little personal tidbit before I get into my review: I was in a cult for a good three years of my life, and reading this darkly lovely, frightening little book scared the hell out of me, to be honest. It brought back a lot of memories, and my family was one of the ones that was nearly ruined in the crossfire of it all. Our family is still run through with many brutal scars, despite having escaped the cult six years ago. But this book is one that needs to be read. It is shocking, ripped straight from the headlines, bloody and gory and nothing short of terrifying. I felt like I was watching a horror movie in my head while I was reading this book.
Minnow Bly's parents found the Kevinian cult when she was but five years old. Ripped from life as she knows it, she is forced into a cult, her deluded faithful parents devoted to a sick man who calls himself--wait for it!--'The Prophet'. What he says goes, and Minnow, despite being a devoted Kevinian, has her doubts. But the straw that breaks the camel's back is when the Prophet announces that seventeen year old Minnow must be his wife.
And when she tries to run away, the Prophet takes away her hands, too. (One of the most painful, and one of my favorite, parts of the book.)
After the cult burns down in a mysterious act of arson, Minnow is imprisoned, waiting to pay for a grave crime she may have not even committed. Handless, friendless, alone, she is offered a deal in exchange for her words, for her testimony: She could go free when her eighteenth birthday comes around. Faced with an impossible choice, her world shattered, Minnow discovers that starting over and thinking for herself might require more courage than even she possesses.
I'd like to start by saying that this book was nothing else than beautiful. I loved it. It was like a love letter to anyone who thought they might not have the strength to move on, to become powerful in their own right, to change their fate. The prose of this novel was gorgeous: dark, meaty, gory, and yet lovely in description--I was completely spellbound by the end of the chapter.
But what really sold this novel for me, as I said before, was the cult. The Community, with the terrifying, often lustful Prophet at the helm, and its members, brainwashed and meek, caring in one turn and bloodthirsty the next. The pacing was breakneck, from the prison scenes to the terrifying flashbacks of Minnow's life at the Community, riddled with questions and more than a little abuse.
Minnow herself was what made me love this book, too, and because of her, I will absolutely love it forever. A young woman trying desperately to find her way through a minefield of doubt, faith, and what it means to really think for yourself, even if it is your first time at just seventeen years old. I loved all sides of her: the good, the bad, and the dark and ugly, because regardless, she's strong enough to make it through everything life seems to throw at her. I loved her, related to her, cheered for her. She's my hero, and one of my favorite young adult protagonists to date. And then there's Angel, Minnow's murderous bunkmate, Dr. Wilson, the psychologist who wants to help her, and find a killer, and finally, Jude, and his father, Waylon, Jude being Minnow's first love. The bottom line: A darkly beautiful, yet ultimately hopeful, debut about what it means to stand on your own two feet and start over, and to really think for yourself! Highly recommended to readers of all ages! Next on deck: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson!