4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
This one is super creepy in parts, partially because you can see this exact scenario actually being played out in real life. Castley’s father is convinced God talks to him, telling him that the Cresswell family is the only enclave of true believers left on Earth. Castley’s brothers and sisters are expected to follow their father’s “revelations” exactly, wearing homemade clothing, marrying each other when they come of age, and accepting punishments for infractions that include beatings and being locked in a hole in the ground. The 6 children were originally homeschooled, but worried neighbours made enough of a fuss that they were thrown into public school. Castley and her siblings are all social outcasts until Castley is partnered with someone who is halfway decent to her as part of a school project. She is just getting a glimpse of what life outside of her family could be like when her father starts acting more and more erratic, talking about how their entire family will soon be going to their true home.
I really enjoyed this book, despite it being quite scary. Castley is a very well written character that is coming to realize exactly how screwed up her family is, while still feeling a great deal of loyalty towards them. She is grappling with the fact that her father may not be infallible and, in fact, may be downright abusive, but reporting him would tear their family apart. It is a really heartbreaking portrayal of the types of decisions that abused children have to make when deciding what to do.
Castley’s siblings are a good spectrum of the ways kids can deal with abusive parents. One brother believes his father completely, and tries to follow his insane commands as best he can, though whether this is sincere belief in the “revelation” or a self-defence mechanism is hard to say. Another disobeys frequently. They all try and stay away from home as much as possible and seem to have lingering doubts about whether or not their father might be right after all, and that he is a true prophet instead of a madman.
The tension in this book builds nicely as the situation becomes more and more urgent. The children are starting to approach their 18th birthdays, when they can finally leave home and make their own decisions. The family relies on reclaimed trash sold at a farmer’s market to sustain them, and a run of bad luck means that the family is growing short on food. The father seems to realize his control over his family is breaking and begins to talk about returning his family to Heaven. No one in the family is quite sure how seriously he means that though.
This book was really hard to put down because you are not sure how far the situation is going to progress. There are some adults in the community becoming concerned, the kids are all being pushed to their breaking points and the dad is getting crazier. You know something is going to happen, but not what and from which quarter.
This was a suspenseful and engaging read. It really puts the spotlight on child abuse and religious fanaticism, and the importance of being kind to those around you since you do not know what their home life might be like.