I first heard about The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly a couple weeks before its release. I think I saw it mentioned on Goodreads, so I placed a request through the library network. This young adult novel was written by Stephanie Oakes.

Minnow Bly spent most of her life in a cult that lived in the wilderness, completely isolated from the rest of society. Discipline is swift and brutal: Minnow lost her hands because she was disobedient. Minnow no longer lives on the group’s compound; it was burned to the ground, and the prophet was killed. Minnow is confined to a juvenile detention facility, and as she adjusts to her new surrounding, she must come to terms with her past as she faces an uncertain future.

The story switches between Minnow’s current life, and her life on the compound. What makes this story especially fascinating is that the members of Minnow’s group are not Christian separatists. They do practice polygamy, but they have their own Gospel, complete with creation stories and other explanatory myths given to them by Kevin, the Prophet. Minnow remembers very little of her life in the real world; she moved with her parents to the wilderness when she was five years old. Life in the Kevinian compound is bleak; medical care is virtually nonexistent, there is never enough food, and girls are often married to men old enough to be their grandfather.

This novel is quite literally a coming of age story. Minnow’s 18th birthday is approaching, and a determination will be made if she will be released or sent to an adult facility for the rest of her sentence. At the juvenile facility, Minnow strikes up a friendship with her cellmate, a girl named Angel. She also spends time with an FBI psychologist who is trying to gather more information about what happened the night the compound burned down.

I would absolutely recommend The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. This was a compelling look at extremism, and its aftermath. Minnow is an intrepid narrator. She has experienced so many traumatic events in her life, and ironically, her first experiences with freedom occur during her incarceration. Minnow must come to terms with her past: that life on the compound was shrouded in lies, that they took her hands, and that they took so much more than that. Minnow knows what happened to the compound, but she needs time to process everything before she can discuss it with the psychologist. This is a memorable book, and I look forward to reading more from Stephanie Oakes in the future.

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