The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Young adult, contemporary, thriller
July 2015; thank you to HarperCollins

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, and her ability to trust. 

And when Minnow rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

 Now the Kevinian Prophet has been murdered and the camp set aflame and it's clear Minnow knows something. But she's not talking. As she adjusts to a life behind bars in juvenile detention, Minnow struggles to make sense of all she has been taught to believe, particularly as she dwells on the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of; if she is willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past. 

Powerful and compelling, this remarkable and brave debut novel reveals the terrible dangers of blind faith. And the importance of having faith in yourself.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a dazzling debut about the endurance of hope after trauma and belief after spiritual assault. Narrated from within a juvenile detention centre, this is a novel so full of flashbacks to brutality that it could have been oppressive, or just depressing. But in seamlessly entwining Minnow’s backstory with the narration of emerging positive friendships, Stephanie Oakes has instead delivered an emotive character-driven story about hope, faith and friendship that will warm your heart even as the gradual revelation of the horrors of Minnow’s life in the cult takes your breath away. Unflinching in its narration of the savagery of the Kevinian cult’s physical and psychological brutality, chilling misogyny and misappropriation of religious language, Minnow’s narrative voice is unapologetic, eternally sympathetic but never sensationalist.

A third into the novel, I was ready to end up frustrated, expecting every person with a religious affiliation within the novel to end up being crazy and/or amoral and/or homicidal. I was so happy to be proved wrong on that point. Another welcome surprise was Oakes’ refusal to use Minnow’s love interest Jude as tool for her salvation. Minnow’s salvation comes from herself.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a remarkable debut that manages to straddle the heart-pounding exhilaration of a thriller with the poignant interpersonal depth of a character-driven drama, and succeeds unequivocally in both arenas. If this is her opening number, I can’t wait to see what Stephanie Oakes does next.

Trigger warnings for physical, sexual and psychological abuse and trauma, homicide and mentions of alcoholic parents. 
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  1. Lovely review! I keep seeing this all over my blog feed and really must get around to reading it soon because it sounds amazing.
    Michelle @ The Unfinished Bookshelf

    1. Thanks! And, do! See if you can set aside a chunk of time to devote to it, because this is the kind of book you want to consume in one go!