Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Me on The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

Title: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Author: Stephanie Oakes
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin imprint)

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too. Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she's willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is dark, mysterious, and disturbing. It's a look at faith and survival, about the dangers of blind faith, about the strength we find in ourselves when we believe for ourselves and not for anyone else.

Minnow Bly is lost, depressed, confused, but also harsh. She doesn't want help from anyone, she doesn't want to think about her life before being sent to juvie, doesn't want to remember the sights and the smells and the pain. The book starts just after her arrest, her hands already gone from her arms. The reader starts off with no knowledge of what she's done to end up in police custody, it's revealed to them over the course of the book. Where Minnow is from, what living in the Community was like, who the Prophet was. How she lost her hands. As the reader learns the truth about Minnow, Minnow learns the truth about the world, that it isn't how she was taught. That you can't always listen to someone just because they say they're a prophet send by God. Or someone who says they're now in charge.

The cult aspect is rather disturbing. The persuasiveness of some figures, their desire to control the will and thoughts of others. Sometimes because of money, other times because they believe that they are a source of knowledge and strength. It's frightening, knowing that people like this exist, that people like Minnow's parents believe the words of false prophets and give up all their worldly possessions in order to follow them. This also extends beyond religion, consider the stories of people who invested their money only to have it stolen out from under their noses in pyramid schemes and scams. It's all about faith, who we put our faith into depending on how much we think of what they're saying is true.

I was initially intrigued by the book because of the Grimm's fable it is inspired by, The Girl Without Hands. Knowing the tale, I wondered how the author would use it to tell Minnow's story. It's not the same story, but I didn't expect it to be. What it is is something powerful, thoughtful. What it is is an exploration of faith and knowledge, of trust and belief. How do we get others to believe what we do? How can we prove to them that it exists when we cannot show it to them? Why do we trust some so easily? Minnow finds her faith here, finds the truth, confronts it and acknowledges in. Not having read any of the comparable titles, I would recommend this to those looking for a narrator hiding from memory and truth, a narrator trapped, a narrator who sees the world and regains the strength that was taken from her.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Random House Canada.)

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