3rd February 2011, Puffin
192 pages, Paperback
Obedience, intelligence, families, love, treachery, extremism, cult, faith, different ways of life, domestic violence (addressed in a very soft way (safe for children to read))
Summary from Puffin
In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And talk about happy families, we were bountiful. But it came to pass that I started doing sins. And lo, that's when all our problems began...
Note: All of this is my own opinion. I can get a bit passionate about subjects, and cults is one of them. I mean no disrespect in what I say. Religion is a highly emotive issue. Whatever I say about the book, is meant in a generic way. I know there are exceptions, and most religions are fair, loving and peaceful.
I'm all for people having faith, whatever that faith may be. Faith can provide a sound basis to live life, a life which teaches people good morals and ethics, confidence but not arrogance, kindness and compassion, charitable deeds (not always money related) to name a few. Cults on the other hand take religion to the extreme. Although I can see why cults like the one Grace lives in want to live in isolation so that their lives don't mix in the modern world, that isn't how religions should be. It is possible to live side by side in the world without ignoring it - look at the Amish. A few of them trade with those outside their community so they can provide for their families. Shopping, working and going to school in the world for those who are of a different religion teaches people about it. Grace's self-professed Elders don't want to teach people religion. They may claim to teach the children about God and how to live, but they don't. They are dictators. They lay down the rules, and show no lenience.
The Elders don't encourage exploring of ideas, something both Grace and her father do. This is what gets him into trouble. Grace feels she is to blame when her father is kicked out of the community, because she listened to him and explored her thoughts. These thoughts were abominable to the Elders. Personally the Elders are morons. They have controlling personalities, and hate anyone who speaks against them. That isn't the point of religion. Yes there often are guidelines to abide by, but these shouldn't be stuck to so rigidly. People progress at different rates in how they view religion. Grace's mother was happy following the Elders because it kept her world peaceful - something that Grace learns in the story. Grace's father had a thirst for knowledge which meant he questioned everything. This is a positive side of religion: I believe we are supposed to ask questions and seek answers, because that is how we learn about the world. It's very sad that the Elders attempted to subdue this part of Grace's nature. Questions are important to further understanding of life. Grace's views were innocent, she never meant to be disrespectful. The elders showed no compassion. They believe that using harsh punishment is the way for obedience. The opposite is true.
What they do to Grace is, in my eyes, child abuse. No one should be treated like an outcast. I was surprised that they didn't cast her out with her father. I kept hoping that would happen so that Grace could gain a good life in the outside world. This story made me tearful in a lot of places, and the suspense lasts until the final page. Grace is very much her father's daughter - she wants to stand up for what she believes. No matter what obstacles are in her path, no matter how hard the elders try to detain her, she is constantly trying to find a solution. Her heart is in the right place, although she doesn't always realise the danger she places herself in (inviting a lion to eat you really isn't a good idea, even with God on your side!) She does get confused at times, just because the elders are good at their job. But the end is more than satisfactory. Please see after the final conclusion for a spoiler, which I'm putting at the end so you can skip it if you like.
This is a fine example of how twisted people can imprison those who follow their teachings, as well as Grace finding the inner strength to follow what she believes in, no matter what happens.
Morris can be found on his website here.
Check out his other books, including Now.
Similar read: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (I've read it and it's brilliant).
Spoiler coming up
Hopefully now you're reading here because you've already read the book or don't mind a spoiler. What I really would have loved to see in the book is the life of Grace and her family after their escape from the Elders. I haven't yet read a book which tells of a girl's struggles after leaving a cult. Usually there is a paragraph or two, but not several chapters. I had hoped Grace would be different and provide this information for the reader, but it doesn't. That doesn't detract from the book at all. It's just what I personally would have liked. What she goes through is horrendous, and I'm glad she does escape. But it must be hard living in a world that's so opposed to some of their views which they retain, the ones that they choose to keep. There is so much in the world they wouldn't know, people could easily take advantage of them. But there are also kind people who would help show them the way. If anyone knows of books like this, please let me know! (Perhaps it is good material for one of my own novels!)