Minnow Bly’s parents joint a cult when she was young. She was punished by her hands being chopped off at the wrists. Let’s take a moment and process that. Many people, including my public library, thought this book was an adult book – so be warned.
The story is told in flashbacks and to the FBI psychologist that visits Minnow in juvenile detention. We read about her story from her family joining “The Community”, the years her family increased in both children and importance within The Community, and the events that led to Minnow’s disability – as well as the death of the Prophet. Minnow is a smart seventeen year old, despite the fact she cannot read and has had the world kept from her. Through the years she didn’t trust the Community or the Prophet’s stories and communication with God. Only when she runs further into the woods and finds a teenage boy living in a cabin, with his dad, does she realize the lies she has been told and that people outside of the Community are not evil. Jude helps her through the years by offering a supportive escapism.
With such a sad and dark plot, the humor found with Minnow’s cell-mate Angel is a nice reprieve, in juvenile detention, but still. Angel helps Minnow learn the rules of juvenile detention. Minnow decides to get the truth out about the Community, especially how it treated children and women, and agrees to talk to the FBI, who are investigating the burning of the Community and the death of the Prophet.
A dark story of mystery, a cruel disfigurement, and overcoming something horrible. Similar to This. As we read more about Minnow’s background and the brainwashing the men of The Community taught, it is difficult to separate this story from modern cult-like groups. For being a debut novel, I was very impressed with the depth of the various plots. Be aware there are beatings, torture, and some cussing, but overall it shows how Minnow survived and begins to rebuilt her life.
Here is an interview with Stephanie Oaks
William C. Morris YA Debut Novel Nominee (2016)