Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly - Stephanie Oakes; Review

Book Details:
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Dial Books (13th July 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803740700
ISBN-13: 978-0803740709


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 a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself. 

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This could have been a really, really good book. It was all there, the storyline, the characters, the mystery. I mean I enjoyed this too, given that I sped through it in one night. But there was something missing, something that stopped it from going from a good read, to a really profound one. There were a lot of flaws in both plot and character that I thought, if paid a little more attention too, would have worked out well. Anyway, enough rambling as I always do - on to the review we go. 

The topic of this book drew me in, like a moth to a flame. Religion, a cult, rebellion. I’m all in for dat yo. The opening chapter, even better. 

“I am a blood-soaked girl.
Before me, a body. Pulped. My boots drenched with his blood. I search out his eyes, but they’re gone, hidden away behind pale lids.” 

Who can put a book down after that, eh? What follows after this is a book that broken up into chunks, flashbacks of our main character, Minnow, her past, and snippets of her present as she is imprisoned for the assault of a boy. There are many questions surrounding Minnow - why did she hurt him? Who is he? Who is she? Why is she famous? What happened back at the camp where she used to live, following blindly in the faith of cult leader? Why is Minnow the only one who survived, when everything else has been burned down and the leader left for dead? And perhaps for me, the most important question of all - why was Minnow found with her hands cut off? 

You get pulled into this story so fast - wanting answers to questions that seem to arise chapter after chapter. Questions about the past, how did they become involved with the cult in the first place, to more current questions about Minnow as she serves time in prison and contemplates her life now that she’s escaped her past. This chunk of the story, where she’s serving time for assaulting a boy that she encountered after running away from the cult, has a really Orange Is The New Black feel to it. The way she tries to assimilate into prison, an irony of sorts, that she begins to settle into a real prison, after escaping a metaphorical prison of religion and beliefs. She learns attitudes and etiquette of the outside world, learns about people - and true to what I expected from the book, allows readers, alongside the main character, to ask questions about faith and the power of belief. Those were perhaps some of my favourite parts, where Minnow, who starts talking to an FBI agent about events after her capture, she begins to ask and listen about religion and what that means. 

The other questions raised at the beginning of the book, slowly unravel and come to light, in a very well paced manner, making you almost work for the answers. You can’t just skip to parts of the book to find out what happened, no sir, you need to keep reading. With compelling writing, a well paced out plot, and intriguing characters, all set against the backdrop of religion - you can’t help but get hooked. Yet the pitfalls are coming, and here’s where my like for this book goes downhill. 

Our main character Minnow, has spent a majority of her life in the woods, surrounded by these fanatic members of the cult, who refuse to interact with members of the outside world, isolated in their little area, following blindly in this prophet. She’s spent years of her life in this bubble, illiterate about the outside world and everything in it. Yet when she has escaped, and starts to interact with others whilst at jail - she’s able to give these really witty retorts, sarcastic comments, and one-liners that force you to wonder, how is she able to be this way, this responsive, when she’s spent all her time in the woods? Where did she learn all this - surely not from the members of the cult she lived with, who have about as much personality as a plank of 2 by 4 wood. 

What she should have been given the circumstances, was disconnected from social life to a large extent, learning to pick up common mannerisms and ways of life after coming into contact with normal people in a civilised world. She should have been learning slowly to adjust in juvie, yet she shows to signs of that. I don’t want her to be completely drowning in the new life that has become hers, but surely, there should have been an adjustment period for her given everything? 

Another thing that really annoyed me, was the issue with Jude. Trying really hard here not to give away any spoilers - but his in and out of the story and especially that sighting of him and everything afterward - I felt like it really lacked an explanation. Was everything resolved in the end with him? What was his story, how did he reach the point that he did with Minnow not there? 

In all, these little things, character development, resolving certain issues and especially what happens in the end, was kind of just left to be, and not tied up as neatly as it could have been. This isn’t one of those books where things have been left unresolved just so you as a reader could form your own conclusion, left open to interpretation - no instead it was a case of needing a little more attention to detail to allow the book to end properly and have all the parts that you raised, be settle with an explanation. It was in the end though, an interesting and different read, even with its flaws. But with just a little more work on the plot and some character development, it could have been something else, something greater. 

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