The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Publication Date: June 9th 2015 (North America) / June 22nd 2015 (ANZ) 
Publisher: Harper Collins Australia (ANZ) / Dial Books (North America
Purchase: Book Depository - Amazon - Booktopia - Bookworld 
Goodreads Summary: 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.

(Jess did sob through the ending. Yes, she was in a public place.) 

To have a belief and a faith, or to have your faith become your belief? 

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly mesmerised me hook, line and sinker. From its exploration into the distinction, if any, between belief and faith, to its study of hope, in light of injustice, as well as its portrayal of justice without laws, morals and ethicality. In the market, story lines depicting religious cults often offer a fanatically dark and tragic representation and while Minnow Bly does not escape this route, this horrifying portrait is just a mere facet of a multitude of themes explored.

Y’all know I like to get real abstract with the themes, ideas and messages I draw from books. In my interpretation, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly offers “redemption” from the darkness of depravity. Yes, there is the exploration of cult fanaticism and extremism and idolisation, but like all young adult (and yes, this is a generalisation but let’s work with it for the sake of this statement) offerings, there is room for hope to salvage the future. Personally, I’m more inclined towards tragic explorations sans the promise of a bright tomorrow (I just think it’d do well to satisfy the imagination and go the road untravelled but alas) but in this instance I’d say that many will appreciate the lightness that hope has to offer in Minnow Bly. Because without it the themes of injustice may be intolerable for some. Oakes concocts this perfect balance of heft and hope; enough to showcase the tale, but also lift this “burden” from the reader. 

The writing itself, a first person POV, mirrors Minnow’s journey. There is this tragic darkness within the words which is scrumptiously pained and dismal and in that sense, palpable. I wouldn’t say this satisfies my love for lyricism but the writing plays with symbolism, being an encapsulation of Minnow’s current state of mind. And in that manner, it is completely atmospheric and projective upon the reader—an experience in itself. 

My entire life has been an experiment in tolerating the unimaginable. 

If we’re being truthful here, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly stole my heart with its philosophical ideas. Minnow Bly explores the lost of faith as a belief. There’s often this misconception that these are one in the same. But your faith doesn’t necessary constitute as your belief. And Minnow undergoes this journey as she separates and notes the distinction between the two. There’s this liberation when you realise that you choose whether or not you have faith. You need not need to believe in your faith. But you can most certainly have it. 

There’s also a really interesting portrayal of injustice within Minnow Bly (one which I truly appreciated seeing). In Minnow Bly we have injustice under the guise of justice. More often than not, we see horrible things as they are—portrayed without mercy, with gore, with complete and utter shamelessness. And it’s bad enough seeing the worst of the world stripped bare. But what twists the knife further is when immorality breeds right under our noses. When it is twisted into something that is seemingly justifiable for goals that are anything but. It’s a hard read, with that in mind, and will require patience and tolerance because it is painful to digest. But also something terribly important to remember. Darkness isn’t always distinct. 

There are a couple of things you must note. The first is that this book does the good ol’ jump between past and present. Yes, we do flashbacks. They’re integrated within Minnow’s narration and could potentially be cause for confusion. Personally, I enjoyed how past and present intertwined and ultimately climaxed.

We also have a fantastic cast of secondary characters, all of which we touch base with. This is however a standalone so it goes without saying that we’ll never get enough time to explore beyond the main character. The secondary cast have much potential, but of course we’ve got time constrictions. With what we have, each character seems to offer Minnow a range of personalities to engage with, experiences that were impossible to find within the compound, and it is through this that Minnow bases a lot of her character growth upon.

The Scared Lies of Minnow Bly is an exceptionally raw and poignant read. This debut lingers in both light and dark and offers up a multitude of thought-provoking ideas for interpretation. Let yourself be wooed by this thrilling tale of a girl who refuses to be defined by injustice. 


Many thanks to Harper Collins Australia for providing an advance copy in exchange for a honest review. All quotes used were obtained from an uncorrected proof that is subject to change in the final publication.