Review – The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
  • Posted:
  • May 14, 2015

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a new Young Adult standalone novel coming out in June. It is a debut from author Stephanie Oakes. I downloaded the ARC on a whim after giving my physical ARC away to a friend who I thought would appreciate it more. After she raved, I became more curious about it and had to pick it up. I have been working on it for the last few days and, were there not a few spots where I had to put the book down (for mental health reasons) I would have likely finished it in one day. This book is both disturbing and engrossing, a completely fascinating read.

It is not, however, an easy book to love. Allow me to elaborate…

Minnow Bly grew up in a world very different from our own. At a young age her father moved her to the Community; a religious holding of the Kevinian cult who has run off into the wilds of Montana. Now, twelve years later, things are coming apart at the seams. Minnow doesn’t know what she believes in – the ramblings of the Prophet who speaks for God or her own inner demons who question everything. When she meets a young man in the woods named Jude, a man whom she has been warned to steer clear of simply because of the colour of his skin, she embarks down an unfamiliar path that eventually lands her in a juvenile correctional facility.

Minnow has a hard time on the inside. Among many challenges is the fact that she lost both her hands in the Community after the Prophet thought she deserved punishment. Now, disabled and alone, Minnow adjusts to her rehabilitation sessions with Dr. Wilson, a man whom she made a deal with. The Prophet has been found dead, the Community spread apart, and Dr. Wilson believes that Minnow was involved with his murder, or at the very least knows who committed the crime. The two come to an agreement to help each other where they can and Minnow’s rehabilitation begins.

Minnow’s journey is hard to stomach at certain turns. Watching a young woman grow in a patriarchal society (where any chance for improvement is immediately suspect) is a theme that I don’t ever handle well. Seeing the hurt and the pain that her “betters” cause her for natural thoughts and impending yearnings is truly disturbing.
The women in the Community are taught that they are only meant for brood mares, that they are useless for anything other than cooking, cleaning, and birthing. They are taught to avert their eyes and be submissive and that their futures are subject to the whims of God. It makes for some disturbing notions of marriage where men can do whatever they want and women…well, women are the ones who often receive judgement for the men’s mistakes.

There is a beautiful theme throughout of redemption, of growth and moving beyond. These were the moments that I responded to most – Minnow’s evolution from a young, fragile woman, to a strong, earnest soul. Minnow realizes through her friendship with Jude that the things that the Prophet are telling her can’t possibly be true. She tests the boundaries and learns the limits. She questions things that are beyond her own understanding. She experiences loss, harrowing pain, tests of will, grief, fear…the whole gamut of human emotions. This inquisitive girl, this fighter, truly comes of age in this book.

Part Orange is the New Black, part The Handless Maiden (of which this book is a retelling), this book is the stuff of women’s nightmares. I wanted to stop but I couldn’t bring myself to ever abandon the book. I don’t want to live in a world where things like this happen and yet there’s no way that I can ignore the story that Oakes has told. That said, I don’t know entirely how to feel about this book. I can’t decide if I loved the book or hated it. It’s effective, it’s terrifying, and it’s completely addictive. It’s a thoroughly polarizing read and I will not forget it anytime soon.

No rating.

– BP

* The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly releases June 9, 2015

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