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The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly


The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

Twelve years of Minnow Bly’s life have been stolen by the twisted but charismatic leader of the Kevinian cult, the Prophet.  When her father became a deacon for the cult when she was five, everything in Minnow’s life changed.  They live in the woods with no communication with the outside world.  Women in the cult are married off young and their only purpose is to have children --- they are not even allowed to learn how to read.  Men have several wives and serve as the Prophet’s deacons.  Everyone seems content to believe all that the Prophet tells them --- everyone but Minnow, that is.  Slowly she begins to question the things that the Prophet has taught them, especially after she meets Jude, a boy her age who also lives out in the woods with his family.  Jude teaches her about life outside the cult, and the two become fast friends.  However, things take a turn for the worse when Minnow shows the Prophet the ultimate disrespect --- and as punishment, she loses her hands.  After a twist of events, the Prophet ends up dead and the cult’s camp is burned to the ground.

Now Minnow is in a juvenile detention center for beating a boy almost to death.  She struggles to adapt to modern times and life in the detention center.  Fortunately, she has the help of her roommate, Angel.  Fiercely independent, wickedly smart and surprisingly deadly, Angel teaches Minnow about everything she missed out on in while she was in the cult.  Angel also serves as Minnow’s protector and friend during her time in the juvenile detention center.  However, Angel cannot protect Minnow from everything, including remembering all that happened to her and her family in the cult.  These flashbacks only grow worse and more painful when an FBI detective visits her as he attempts to find out what really happened the night the Prophet died and the Kevinian camp went up in flames.  The detective promises to make a deal with her if she tells him the truth, but this means confronting painful truths about herself and her past.  But, if she can face it, the truth could mean setting Minnow free forever.

"The writing is wonderfully done; the language is poetic and insightful and Oakes’s voice shines through the entire novel."

Beautifully written and filled with emotion, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY is an unforgettable tale of grief, loss and hope.  This is author Stephanie Oakes’s debut novel, and she did a fantastic job in all aspects of the book. The writing is wonderfully done; the language is poetic and insightful and Oakes’s voice shines through the entire novel.  One of the best parts of the novel, though, is the plot.  Twists and turns fill the story; readers will definitely be sitting on the edge of their seats until the last page. 

Because the novel is told partially with flashbacks, it allows the story to be told both in the cult’s camp and in the detention center.  The all-girls juvenile detention center provides an interesting and effective background for Minnow’s story; it allows Oakes to explore not only Minnow’s character and strength, but also a wide range of other female characters and the unique ways they handle the struggles in their own lives.  It is their stories, along with Minnow’s, that will have readers captivated.

Oakes also did a great job creating effective, complex characters.  The cruelty of the Prophet and those in the Kevinian cult will have readers astonished, while Minnow’s strength through everything will inspire.  Minnow makes a strong protagonist, and her quest for the truth is noble and worth cheering on.  Throughout the novel, readers can see Minnow develop into a complex, interesting character.  While she has a sweet and caring nature, she can also be fierce and just as dangerous as her new roommate, Angel. 

An interesting character herself, Angel is not only independent, but she is also extremely smart and caring --- she is even willing to put herself in danger for Minnow’s sake.  Her heartbreaking background was only mentioned a couple of times in the novel, and while I wish Oakes had divulged more of Angel’s history, I think she would make a great protagonist herself if Oakes decides to continue writing about the world of THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY.  Another character that I would love to have learned more about is Jude, although readers do get to learn a bit about him and his family through Minnow’s flashbacks.  With the book’s rather open ending, though, readers don’t know for sure what happens to him or the rest of the characters.  Hopefully this means a sequel is in sight because readers will definitely be wanting to see more from Oakes very soon.

Reviewed by Cheyenne C., Teen Board member on June 9, 2015

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
by Stephanie Oakes

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Speak
  • ISBN-10: 0147510163
  • ISBN-13: 9780147510167