The 0,5 stars missing is only related to my trigger and difficulties to read about such topic.
Pfew what a ride!
If I did not trust Meredith I would have stopped reading after 10 pages.
The topic featured in this book: cults, brainwashing, praying on the vulnerable is usually a topic I avoid at all costs.
Because it makes me sick and uncomfortable.
I find mind manipulation deeply repulsive.
Maybe because I was mentally harassed and manipulated at the beginning of my career to the point of nearly falling into depression. Until one night I reached my tipping point and decided that it would no longer affect me. I wouldn’t allow it anymore. And my bully stopped having no grasp on my mind anymore.
So yes it was extremely painful for me to read how Sara had been indoctrinated till her tender age by this false “Pastor”.
I was mad. Furious. I wanted to shout:”Open your eyes! Resist! Rebel!”. Yet I knew deep down how manipulators are clever. How they make their demands seem perfectly reasonable and legitimate.
Obeying in everything? This is God’s will. Pastor knows what’s best for you.
Praying for hours and having no electricity save for Pastor’s house? It’s God’s will.
Imprisoning a child for days without light nor food nor heat? Then having Pastor saving her by unlocking the door and tending to her wounds? It’s because Pastor is your protector and your savior.
He is showing you your true Path and saving you from the evil that plagues the outside world.
I could go on and on how all this was terribly wrong.
But that’s A. Meredith’s trademark. She won’t sugarcoat it to spare your feelings. She will show you the truth. She will back you in a tight corner so that you don’t have any choice but to acknowledge the problem and its wrongness.
Sara has lived in this community for ten years. She tried to rebel as a kid till she understood the futility of it. Her mother has never been a mother to her. She is deranged. Ready to sacrifice her daughter.
“I learned to follow the path. But only through fear of getting in trouble. Fear of being locked in a tiny room with no windows. Fear of the cold look in Pastor Carter’s eyes when I disappointed him.”
Sara has learned to squash her hopes and rebellion in the bud. She is the perfect disciple.
Until Bastian and his brother David join the community.
David has joined of his own volition. Ex-ranger having suffered a traumatic event and being abandoned by the army he suffers from severe PTSD. He hopes to find his purpose and salvation in The Gathering of the Sun.
Bastian follows David in the hope of protecting him. Making him see reason and go home.
Bastian is your free electron. The one with eyes wide open that will make Sara really look at her community and its wrongness.
So many hard topics are exposed in this book!
-How the army abandons her soldiers;
-Child sexual abuse and abuse by neglect;
It takes courage to go against everything you’ve been taught was true. Even if deep down you know it’s evil there is this saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” “Denial was comfortable.”
“What sort of life could a woman like me have? A woman without money or family or skills. Worst of all, a woman without faith. I felt the wind knocked out of me. A woman without faith. Had I lost my devotion? Had doubt clouded my mind? Had sin entered my heart? That scared me more than the memory of The Refuge. More than Mom’s anger and Pastor Carter’s reprimand. What was I without faith? A black hole.”
Sara is strong, compassionate and smart. She also has a long way to go to see the truth. But that’s what Bastian is there for. Luminous, jester, protective and generous Bastian.
Their love is not insta-love. Its roots are firmly planted in the ground but it will take time for the flowers to blossom.
A. Meredith has written a hard, true and uncomfortable story. One that made me want to stop reading many times because of my own personal issues. Yet she did it with boldness and rightness. She soldiered on. To denounce. To open our eyes. To make us see like Sara did.
I can only hope that my path will be easier in the sequel due in some weeks.
Do you read out of your comfort zone books?
Thanks for reading!