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For the last twelve years of her life, 17-year-old Minnow Bly has lived in the Montana wilderness with 100 or so other members of a polygamous cult led by Kevin, their Prophet. Kevinians live by strict rules—no music, no outsiders, no reading for girls, etc.—all of which are violently enforced. No one is more aware of this than Minnow, whose hands were chopped off as a punishment for disobeying her leader.
Hiding a secret that could get her killed, the teen knows she has to leave the Community to save her own life. A fire at the commune offers a perfect escape, especially since the Prophet lies dead in its wake. But, a scared, handless girl wandering around Missoula alone is bound to attract attention. Soon, Minnow finds herself imprisoned in a juvenile detention center for assaulting a stranger. She's offered leniency in exchange for telling the FBI what she knows about Kevin's death, but Minnow refuses to bite. She'd rather rot in juvie than spill her secrets.
The more time Minnow spends at the center under the tutelage of her world-wise cellmate, Angel, the more her world expands. Allowed to study and think for herself for the first time in her life, Minnow begins to realize how much the world has to offer. The more alluring freedom becomes, the more tempted she is to reveal what she knows. But can she risk confiding in the FBI? Or will that be the end of everything for her and everyone she loves?
As you can tell from the plot summary, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes, is not a light, frothy read. Not at all. It's a bleak, heart-wrenching story about the dangers of religious fanaticism and blind faith, and the capacity of human beings to commit acts of both great cruelty and great kindness. Above all, it's about a young woman discovering her own surprising potential. Grim though it may be, in the end, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a novel about hope. Haunting and heartbreaking, it's also a taut, compelling page turner that will stick with you long after you turn the last page. If you're looking for a discussion-worthy pick for your next book club read, you may have just found a worthy contender. I can't say I loved this book, but it definitely kept me reading and thinking.
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for strong language and violence
To the FTC, with love: Another library