The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

Stephanie Oakes

This debut novel is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself.

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A Morris Award finalist and Golden Kite Honor Book! 

A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself. 

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting 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’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us, as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.

Advance Galley Reviews

I could not put this book down. It was a fascinating look into not only the scary world of cults but into the juvenile prison system. The characters were fantastic, even the secondary ones especially Minnow’s fellow inmates. It was interesting to see how each of the girl’s dealt with their incarceration, what they clung to for hope and purpose. The secondary characters within the cult itself were a bit more cookie cutter but I want to believe that was intentional to show the conformity and brain washing nature of the cult. Angel, Minnow’s cell mate, was one of my favorite characters and her complexity mingled with Minnow’s made them play off each other quite well. Even though their friendship could be considered a subplot at best, seeing the way the two helped each other in their own ways was one of my favorite parts of the book. I liked how Minnow’s character grew from beginning of the story to the end and how we got to see different layers of her journey through the flashbacks and memories. Over all this was an excellent book with good pacing and I would recommend this book for book clubs and discussion groups as it definitely lends itself to interesting conversation points regarding self-defense, our legal system, religion, among many other things.

I thought it started out strong. But once I finished it, my overall thought was that not much really happened. It engaged me enough that I was able to read it all but it was just average book for me. Not the most memorable one or one you go back to re-read. The pacing was not the greatest. The beginning was going strong but then something happened and I started to lose interest. Overall, The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly failed to to blow me away. But I was captured by how amazing the writing is. And I loved how suspenseful and mysterious it was. I personally wouldn't recommend it but I think fans of Orange Is The New Black fall in love with it.

I had trouble putting this book down. It was beautifully written and incredibly atmospheric. We get a scary look at what it's like in a cult (I love reading about cults. They are terrifying.) and what it's like when you escape one. Minnow isn't exactly free. She's in a juvenile detention center. One thing she does have now is the ability to explore religion and science, some of which she does with her cell mate, Angel. For the first time in her life, she isn't punished for asking questions. For the first time in her life, she can get real answers. And it's such a beautiful and moving story. Such an incredible read.

I really enjoyed The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. I enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction about cults, so I've been very excited to read this for a while. I liked Minnow and can't even imagine the life she had while in the cult and even afterwards ending up in juvenile detention and still not being free. I would recommend this book.

I was given an arc of "the secret lies of minnow bly" in return for an honest review. I started reading this book and at first it grabbed my attention but as the storyline went on....I wasn't quite sure what the author was trying to get out there. Minnow was brought into an occult by her father...she doesn't fit in and she's the rebellious type. The occult leader has taken his interest in her and because she refuses to follow the religious sect...he takes her hands. As the story progresses it tells of her meeting a guy geophysics of the camp and more or less falls in love with him. The occult frowns on such activity and ends up killing him (we found out later that he actually survived). So Minnow is then arrested for attacking a homeless man under a bridge. Shes guilty of she's sent to a woman's jail. She befriends a murderer who helps her with the ins and out of jail life. In return for a good recommendation and early tease a therapist us looking for what really happened to the occult leader...she's one of the few that knows. The story continues and throughout the story we learn what exactly happens to the occult keader. He was inevitably murdered by Minnows father -- in at first thought it was retribution for taking her hands but it was a power play. He just wanted to be the leader. I found the book to be delightful enough but I just didn't feel connected to the character. It was rather generic and the character really didn't develop into anything special.

Typically I don't read much YA suspense/mystery, but I'm so glad I read this book. THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY is hauntingly amazing. I was hooked from first page, trying to puzzle out what happened to Minnow to bring her to where she is today. One of this things I really appreciated about this story was the depth of the characters. They were nuanced in a beautiful way that made them jump off the page. The author didn't pull any punches with the reality of Minnow's situation. It was the right amount of realism - just enough to gut check you, but not so much that you toss the book away in disgust. If you are a fan of Laurie Halse Andersen or Nova Ren Suma, you will love this debut from Stephanie Oakes. I highly recommend it!

It seems like interest in cults has become a bit of thing lately. I've noticed several tv shows based on the Charlie Manson story and have added a couple books dealing with cults to my to be read list. This is another book that could definitely fall into that category. Not my favorite by any means and it was awfully heavy, but I suppose that is to be expected with this type of book. It was a solid book and I would recommend it.

I rated this book 5 stars on Good Reads. It's not every book I do that, but this book was just so hauntingly powerful! Minnow Bly lives a terribly hard life enforced by the Kevinian cult her parents are brainwashed into following. The things that happen to her in this book are horrible. There are also a few scenes of violence and more than the implication of sexual, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse against Minnow and her family. This book does a wonderful job of immersing the reader into Minnow's world and making it seem like an exceptionally well-written news story about a backwoods cult and its victims. I couldn't put it down!

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book. My initial rating was 3 stars, though I was torn even then. After a bit, I had to change it to 4 stars because it was still working on me after I'd finished it. When a book does that to me, it usually deserves a star bump. I consider this book to be a sort of mystery and a book on self-discovery. The mystery aspect kept me interested, but the self-discovery aspect resonated with me.

A very powerful story that you can't take your eyes off. We first meet Minnow and begin to learn about her as she is being sent to juvenile detention. We see her past unfold in a variety of ways and each one opens her up a little bit more. The more I understand of her past, the more real she becomes. Some truly horrible things happen - I don't want to sugar coat it. The way her story was told was so powerful that I actually felt her pain physically. The writing was so beautiful and real, I couldn't help but feel it every step of the way. But Minnow is not her past. She makes some great friends in juvenile detention, and meets some really bad people as well. She learns about how the world really works decides that she can survive in it. This story may not be all bright and shiny, but it shows how a person in the worst of circumstances can find that bit of gold in their life. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

I loved this book. I was a little leery of it at first - do we really need another book that bashes religion? But it was beautiful and profound and something I'll happily read again and again. Minnow captures your heart from the first page, and I loved the way her story unfolded, by the fourth or fifth chapter I didn't want to put the book down - I had to know her story. It was happy and sad and romantic and scary and so very moving - all in different bits and all at the same time. I loved that the author shows the reader that anything in your life that doesn't make room for you to ask questions needs to go! I also loved the exploration of freedom and how sometimes it looks different than you imagined it would and sometimes when you think you're free you're actually in a cage. I can't wait to read more by Stephanie Oakes - she's a phenomenal writer. Even though I received an advanced ebook copy, I'll be going out as soon as I can to purchase a physical copy, as well. This book is a treasure!

This is, by no means, an easy novel to read. But that is not due to the style of writing, it has to do with the very story itself, It is a brutal, unwavering, heart and gut wrenching story about this young girl who loses her hands, her family, her identity, everything. Nevertheless, it was all of that that made it such an impactful story to behold. The detail and imagery of the novel are images that will embed themselves into the mind of the reader, making them unforgettable for months and even years. Images like the brutality, when Minnow loses her hands for instance. The detail that went into that is heartbreakingly real to the point where the readers will feel the pain. The novel follows Minnow Bly as it is told through a first person perspective. Her perspective is broken, but cohesive at the same time. Broken due to her character and the hardships she suffered. It’s dark, sad, gritty and harsh and paints her reality, her world in such a dark light. Going through the motions alongside Minnow, the audience really is submerged into this cold dark world of Minnow Bly. Oakes makes quite an impressive debut with this novel not only because of the story but also by her ability to tell it through the eyes of Minnow. Her detail is extraordinary, it is lively and the structure, the word choice and imagery that goes alongside it. It is soulful, thoughtful and beautiful while at the same time being so painful. Minnow is just a scared girl who has lost so much in her life and the writing captures that with such an amazing ability. From the first line “I’m a blood soaked girl”, readers are drawn into the story. Lines such as that, simple phrases that pack a punch, fill the confines of this text. On every page the narrator, Minnow captivates the reader in her ability to translate her emotions, her thoughts, off the pages. There is such a poetic and passionate essence that the writer has attached to this manuscript and all aspiring writers should read this novel if only for the texture of the writing. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is an amazing novel that will touch the readers and grab them by their emotional heartstrings. This novel will make any readers heart and body hurt, as they become the narrator, as they travel alongside her as she searches for her identity and her lost hope in the world. This is a novel about right versus wrong, belief, and the strength to overcome adversity and cruelty. Everyone should read this novel.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly was very interesting. It gave a look into the life of a religious cult and into an all girls juvenile correction facility. Following Minnow in her flash backs and in her current situation was a journey. The character development, emotional development of the character and the settings were all well written. I would recommend this book and I would read another book by Stephanie Oakes.

This book is an excellent tale of life inside a cult, and what happens when a member of that cult begins to question the life she is leading. Minnow is a fascinating character and her spirit and courage is at the heart of this exploration of faith and where it can lead people if they believe blindly in what they are told. The book contains a mystery, and a love story of sorts, but is mostly a tale of questioning. I loved the parallels with Tess of the Durbervilles and the way in which losing a physical part of you makes you question your inner life. Lots to think about...

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes is a unflinchingly honest portrayal of life inside a religious cult. Although a work of fiction, every heartbreaking detail rings true and the novel raises very thought-provoking questions and answers about blindly following the teachings of a self-proclaimed spiritual leader. When Minnow Bly was five years old, her parents followed Prophet Kevin into the Montana wilderness where they helped build and then lived in a secluded Community with other followers. They never questioned the Prophet’s increasingly bizarre teachings and they followed his every command without any protest. The Kevinian cult believed in taking more than one wife and the Prophet decided which young girl the much older men would marry. The women and children carried out the most strenuous tasks while the men were made Deacons of the “church”. The cult members had no contact with the outside world but Minnow faintly recalled small details of life before her family joined the Prophet which caused her to doubt some of his proclamations. When the novel opens, Minnow has been arrested for a vicious assault on a young man following her escape from the wilderness compound. She is convicted of the crime and sent to a juvenile detention center where an FBI forensic psychologist offers her a deal that could lead to her parole on her eighteenth birthday. In exchange for his testimony at her upcoming parole hearing, Minnow must tell Dr. White the harrowing details about the night the Prophet died and the Kevinian compound was set ablaze. Through flashbacks and her vivid account to Dr. White, the story of Minnow’s life with the Prophet is revealed and surprisingly, with the help of the doctor and her cellmate, Angel, Minnow begins to heal from her horrific ordeal. While not technically a mystery, there is a suspense element to the storyline. Minnow is reluctant to divulge the events of the night of the Prophet’s death but why? What reason could she possibly have for keeping a secret of this magnitude? Is she responsible for his death? If not, who is trying to protect? The answers to these questions might just lie in her surprising and unexpected friendship with Jude, an outsider who lives close to the religious compound. This friendship leads Minnow to sneak away at every opportunity to escape her cloistered life with the Kevinians. These experiences with Jude also foster some of her skepticism of Prophet Kevin’s somewhat ludicrous teachings. At the juvenile detention center, Minnow strikes up an unlikely friendship with Angel who helps her navigate the confusing life among the other inmates. After years in seclusion, Minnow is incredibly naive and at first, she finds it difficult to leave behind the teachings of Prophet Kevin. She is also uncertain of her own opinions and looks to others to tell her what to think about the questions she has about life, faith and the world in general. Minnow is extremely intelligent and through the programs available to her, she begins the arduous tasks of learning to read and gain the skills needed to live a regular life. Surprisingly, Minnow does not turn her back on faith and she finds comfort in certain passages from the Bible. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is an extraordinarily fascinating novel and the storyline is incredibly compelling. Minnow is an extremely complex and sympathetic character and she is also very easy to like despite the circumstances that led to her incarceration. Cults are infinitely intriguing and Stephanie Oakes provides a credible scenario for how disenfranchised and dissatisfied people can easily be led astray as they search for a better life for themselves and their loved ones. An absolutely outstanding novel that is quite hopeful despite the rather serious subject matter and one that I highly recommend.

I loved this book. As soon I read the first page, I knew I had to see how this book ended. The story plays out very well. It Is easy to become embraced in Minnow's emotional journey. Plenty of gruesome moments. These moments are evened out well by the hope and light that this story brings out. There is hope. There is reason to believe In yourself.

This book sucked me in from the beginning, couldn't stop reading.

When I first started this book I had doubts about it being a good read. Boy, was I wrong!! As the plot goes on and the characters develop I couldn't put it down! I'd give it four out of five stars! Well worth the read!

I truly enjoyed about 90% of this book and would have no problems suggesting it to anyone to read. I love how the main character balances being a child with being an adult and all the issues that come up with from spending 12 years in a religious cult. Only one scene felt truly unbelievable and left a shadow over the rest of the story. The scene was unnecessary and if the author truly felt the information was important, she could have found another more believable way of introducing it. Yes, the book is fiction and events in it do not have to be completely believable, but it would make for a more compelling story. Also, I would have liked to have seen a bit of resolution to the relationship between Minnow and Phillip. It seemed forgotten. Still, 4 out of 5 stars.

This was one of the best novels I've read in a while. Minnow is a believable character and while she suffered at the hands of those she should have been able to trust, I never actually felt sorry for her. The choices Minnow makes move the plot along quickly and I simply didn't have time to feel sorry. Instead I was busy reading "just one more chapter" to find out the next piece of the puzzle. I know writers make intentional moves, so when Angel came along, I figured she would play an important role in Minnow's life. The book isn't just about finding out the truth behind a fire; it's about friendship, growing up, and overcoming obstacles. To Stepahnie Oakes, thanks for not tying it up in a pretty, yet predictable, bow!

4 out 5! This book kept me captivated through the end. I chose this book because I use to love reading R. L. Stine Books when I was younger and I have yet to get in a similar genre as an adult. SO I thought maybe a book about a cult would be interesting and mysterious. It did not disappoint. The chapters a pretty short as you read about Minnow in a juvenile detention center and as she remembers her time in the community of her cult. Every time I finished a chapter I would think Just one more and keep reading.

I was lucky enough to receive this as an ARC. I was also lucky enough to have read some amazing books this month. This was another one! I loved it! Minnow Bly is now one of my favorite literary characters, along with Owen Meaney and Odd Thomas!

I absolutely love this book. I have this weird fondness for cult stories (which this definitely is) but I also love stories about weird, damaged girls (which this definitely is) and stories of resilience (which this definitely is). So this is basically perfect for me. I loved Minnow. Minnow is definitely prickly (which she should be, given all the horrible things she's had to deal with) but she's still eager to connect with people, even though she doesn't really like to show it. This book absolutely caught me off guard. I expected to enjoy it, obviously, but I ended up absolutely loving everything about it. (Especially the fact that Minnow's cellmate, Angel, is huge into science and so Minnow---who has never had any sort of education---becomes really knowledgeable about astronomy. Also, just in general, I LOVE ANGEL.) Highly recommended.

4 stars. Minnow Bly, former cult member and current inmate in a juvenile detention facility, has a lot of secrets, a lot of guilt and a desire to survive. I'm not sure I want to get too much into the plot details as I think I enjoyed this novel more going into it blind. Needless to say, I found this book incredibly, incredibly engrossing from the very first pages. Minnow reveals her entire story in pieces as she makes new friends in lock-up and as these facts pile up, the reader gets a terrifying glance at her former life and her courage to continually search for bigger answers. At times the cult's prophet and members seem a little one dimensional and I wish the author would have delved into these characters with the depth she uses to portray the facility's inmates. Overall, though, I found this a compelling and difficult to set down account of one girl's horrific experiences and her sliver of hopefulness in the face of it all. I received this book from Penguin's First-to-Read program in exchange for an honest review.

I was completely confused at the beginning with this story. Everything seemed a bit ridiculous and over the top until ever so slowly details began adding up. The more that Minnow Bly reveals the more the story comes together and my empathy for her began growing quickly. I loved watching her grow as a person, learning about the real world outside of the cult. I had anticipated to be somewhat bothered by this book on an emotional level and I won't say that it didn't happen to some extent. I do feel though that it was both graphic enough and tame enough to be able to appreciate the horror without going over the edge into obscene. I don't think this is a book everyone will enjoy, especially those that can't handle stores involving child abuse. If you are able to move past some of those issues it an interesting although fictional take on child abuse, personal growth, and even faith.

I devoured this book. I was drawn in from the beginning with the first chapters being short and like descriptions of snapshots. I usually find books about religious cults fascinating and this one did not disappoint.

I do not usually like books based so much on religion but there are of course exceptions to that rule. When I read the synopsis of this book and found out it was about a cult and a young girl that grows up in said cult I had to read it and see what it was about. I understand that when you grow up in that sort of thing it warps your thinking and you can't know any other way especially when the cult keeps its people from learning any better. It is amazing though what some people will do for faith. Minnow is a very complex character she wasn't very whinny, she was just trying to figure out herself and how to fit into this world that kept growing each time she learned something new. When a young girl like herself is repressed and told basically to keep it in its no wonder that she lashes out at the nearest thing when something upsets her. Through this whole books its basically more about how she grows and comes to deal with her past to move past everything and deal with the emotions she has locked inside of her. I loved the side characters as well I don't think Minnow would have gotten as far as she did if she didn't have Angel as a cell mate. Angel was down to earth and believed in science which helped steer Minnow towards bigger questions that can't always be answered by religion or science, it does open up her eyes to possibilities though where she starts to question things and find her own way in life. Jude I liked at first especially when he was the only one who was there for Minnow while she was still with the cult but as the story unfolds I can see how Minnow can grow out of a friend, by the end of the book if she kept him as a friend he would have held her back. This books is filled with enough mystery to keep it interesting and the flow of the story was point on. It switches back and forth from her current predicament where she is dealing with being in held in the juvenile detention center and then to her telling different people about her past and dealings within the cult. I also liked the fairy tale retelling part, I recently read some grim fairy tales and it reminded me of them. Be prepared if you read this book, it does have some gruesome parts that will make you question how people could do so many horrible things just because someone says it is in the name of God. No I didn't think Minnow should have gone to jail for what she did, the system should have helped her in other ways other than throwing her in jail for assault. I know our system isn't the best and she just seemed to be dealt a bad hand but they still could have helped her in other ways but I think it all worked out for the best regardless. The ending was cut short in my opinion I was wanting just a little more of the story but that is what makes a good book, one that keeps you wanting and makes you question everything.

A completely different genre and a very interesting book. As I am a true believer in GOD, I did not like the argument about the existence of GOD. Apart from that; the story of Minnow in Community and in Juvenile is interesting and very well written. The author has done a commendable job because you just cannot concentrate on your other activities till you have read the book. So I give 4/5 to this book.

3.75-4 Stars A YA murder mystery set partly in a juvenile delinquent center and partly in the woods at a cult compound (think The Village). The mystery is delivered via flashbacks. The plot and characters are intriguing, but the MC's ability to adapt and endure is what kept me reading. There are just a few predictable instances, but overall a good story. This fiction work is the first novel that I have come across on this subject, so it's scary and enticing at the same time. For readers looking for a different kind of story. Penguin First to Read Galley

I loved this book. Highly suspenseful; it hooks you from the first page. I finished it in one sitting! The ending was a little abrupt, and left a lot of unanswered questions, but that didn't diminish the quality at all. Highly recommended.

Unlike any other book I have read. Had the sense that I was reading something special from the very first sentence. Beautifully written, the story about her past and about her life in jail are both equally interesting. The only thing I didn't love was the sort of abrupt ending. Very intense, thought provoking read. I will absolutely read whatever this author writes next.

From the very opening line of "I am a blood-soaked girl" , I had a feeling that this was going to be one of those books that sucks me in completely. I was right. Not only am I fascinated about the subject matter, but this happens to be one of the most moving, painful and well-written books about a religious cult, existing outside the rules and laws of society as we know it. It's the kind of book that has you on the edge of your seat, angry and scared for the protagonist. It's a heart-pounding kind of book. But it also contains moments of humour, lightness and friendship between Minnow and the other girls in juvenile detention - especially the hilarious Angel. As I said, it balances so many things and, I personally think, it leaves us with a lingering and unsettling message - not about religious cults, but about the way in which our laws can punish victims. Full review here:

I have not been keeping up with this genre of young adult literature, so I was not prepared for the intensity of this book. From the first page, I was drawn in. How could you not be drawn in as the jailer tries to find a way to handcuff a girl whose hands were chopped off? I will confess, I did not have the strong sense of hope the publisher purports. It is to me a bleak story, a story of survival and determination. It is a story of damage and destruction. There is hope in the sense that Willow begins to untangle the lies, the deception, the breach of trust. There is hope in the sense that Willow begins to see the need to trust first in herself and second in her future. I think it appeals to that dark streak we all have in adolescence, the need to feel deeply and to explore pain vicariously. (I was obsessed with the Holocaust at that age). I found it darkly compelling. I read it quickly; if I had not been in a particularly busy time at work, it would have been a book I would have stayed up to the wee hours to finish. I will read more from this author.

This book was intriguing from page 1! I felt so compelled to listen to stories that made up the history of Minnow's life. I was drawn in to the present of her circumstances as well as the past that led her here. I wanted to see how much she absorbed and how much, if anything, she would reject. The outcome was surprising to me and that was both pleasant and sad. I would read this again. I definitely will tell others about her and to read this book. I will also read more from Stephanie Oakes. The characters took on distinct places in my mind and heart, especially Angel. What makes us think we understand people until we spend time listening to them, actually hearing their expressions. I thought the author provided a perfect setting for the heroine to grow and learn. The interesting part is the relationships that were in Minnow's past are sifted through while developing the relationships of her present and future. Very well written. Lots of bends in the timeline that make it hard to put down. I don't want to give it all away, but the story appears to be guiding you towards a particular conclusion (and rightfully so, it is the obvious conclusion) but then it vaporizes into a magnificent if not sad-tinted ending. Beautifully choreographed dance, in my opinion.

The moment I read the summary of this book I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed. This book is like nothing I've ever read before, and I loved that. It is a very strong debut novel, and I cannot wait to read more from Stephanie Oakes. People should be warned that there is some tough violence in this book, but it is worth the read. This book kept me up all night reading and I haven't been able to stop thinking about Minnow.

A stunning debut novel from Stephanie Oakes, "The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly" floats spellbinding suspense on a sea of deft language and stark imagery. The result is a luminous tale of faith, family and survival. The novel follows 17-year-old Minnow's coming-of-age passage from an abusive religious cult, through the justice system and forward (we hope!) to an integrated adult life. Part legal thriller, part survival story, Minnow's voice rivets the reader as she peels away the layers surrounding and distorting the truth. While this spell-binding novel would make perfect beach reading, it's equally compelling read as literary fiction. I will follow Stephanie Oakes' future writing career with great interest!

I got this book free from This book was a bit of a struggle - interesting and hard to put down but not my favorite book of the year. Typically I'm not a fan of realistic violence and you hear about a lot of it in this book (beatings, mutilations) and get the promise of more (raping of children). Minnow is an interesting character - weirdly sheltered from her cult upbringing but determined to get away from it. Her internal dialogue and the way she spent her time alone made me keep reading. The other characters and external dialogue were more difficult. Despite being in a cult her entire childhood without education, popular culture or friends her own age she immediately picks up idioms, sarcasm and a lot of knowledge I wouldn't expect her to have. I couldn't get a good read on time scales since the book jumped around a lot but it was certainly less than a year of current time for her to pick up all of that information. She's also suspiciously good at making friends with strangers and is instant best friends with a convicted murderer (appropriately convicted or not) which made my head tilt a bit.

Oh my goodness, what a fantastic read! Through her memories and chats with a federal forensic psychologist, Minnow Bly slowly lets us her story. Having escaped a cult's compound, a life she knew, and leaving her entire family behind Minnow attacks a man and stands trial. Put in a juvenile detention center, she spends her days trying to piece together her past and learn about the current world. Is she a murderer? Will she be given parole or sent to jail as an adult? Where are her hands?! All are revealed within the pages. Read this book! Don't think about it, just get your hands on it and fall into Minnow's world and her head.

I really wanted to love this book, based on its synopsis as well as other early reviews. It was good, but not great. Here's why: The good: the story is very different and compelling. Although compared to other books about teenagers with struggles, I found its plot pretty original. The not so good: The characters - I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I just didn't find them very well rounded, and in some cases, very believable. And, although I liked the concept, there were just a few too many things I that were TOO unbelievable to happen - I can only suspend my disbelief for so much. The bad: the ending. After 400 pages of reading, I expected more of a resolution. It was good enough that I would be willing to give another Stephanie Oakes book a chance. As a high school teacher, I would probably recommend it to a few of my students. I would rate it a 3 out of 5

Cults + fairy tale retelling + juvie + horror = GIMME GIMME. I do not have the vernacular to describe how excited I was for this book. It's no big secret I love retellings/inspirations, but this is a fairy tale retelling with a malevolent cult, interracial love, handlessness, and a juvenile detention center! So when I downloaded my copy, you bet your ass my heart pretty much exploded from joy. The titular character, Minnow Bly, was the perfect choice for the narration. She's lived under the rule of The Prophet and his cult since she was five. The book is set after Minnow's escape which means that most of the revelations are revealed via flashback. While I usually detest flashbacks, it actually works in this book, because of who Minnow is. The central story line is Minnow's interrogation from Dr. Neil Wilson, a forensic psychologist, trying to piece together what happened the night Minnow escaped The Prophet. Minnow states in her first interaction with the good doctor that she won't tell him the whole truth, and she doesn't. There's a reason this book is called The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. Fact and fiction are blended together. Minnow spends the book spouting half-truths to Dr. Wilson while recounting the actual truth some time later. It was a brilliant narrative and one that's pretty easy to fuck up if it wasn't for Oakes writing. Everything from the description of the juvenile hall to the horror and pain Minnow faced while having her hands chopped off was perfect. Her writing was gruesome and heartwarming in equal doses. I've never actually read a book with a truly disabled character before, so reading this was a whole new experience for me. Reading from Minnow's point of view was hard at times, because I just felt so bad for her. I couldn't imagine living without my hands, but Minnow was doing it every day. Eventually, I shed that pity when I realized that Minnow didn't want anyone's pity. For most of the book, she's perfectly capable of handling herself and that made me love her even more. As this is a cult book, I must applaud Oakes's efforts and commentary on religion. The Prophet's religion, as well as most of his followers, called Kevinians, has got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever read. God's real name is Charlie? He was born in 1776 and is as American as apple pie? It was amazing anyone could actually believe that crap, but they did. And that's the point Oakes makes in the book. People will follow anyone or anything if it makes them feel important. Minnow comments on this after about three-fourths of the book, saying that she can't think of The Prophet as anything but a man of God, because doing so makes her own situation meaningless. No matter how much raw hatred she had for The Prophet, Minnow actually liked thinking her suffering was part of God's plan. It hit me right in the gut. One of the book's main theme summed up into a scene so powerful and so true. In addition to blind faith, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly also deals with a lot of feminist issues, specifically victim blaming. Minnow is in prison for a crime not connected to the cult and, from what it sounds like and what Minnow's flashback revealed, it was one those things that happen in a heat of passion. Both Minnow and her victim were confused and scared, but Minnow is written off as dangerous and locked away. Her cellmate, Angel, experiences something similar. After being raped by her uncle, she shoots him in the throat. Because he was an upstanding member of the community, she gets forty years and no one believes her. Her story, like Minnow's, is twisted into something people want to believe...something that it's not. This works perfectly with the source material as well. The original Handless Maiden focuses heavily on sexual abuse. Minnow is betrothed to be one of the many wives of The Prophet and when she refuses, Minnow's hands are cuts off in a fit of rage. Men punishing women for saying no, it’s an unfortunately very common in modern society and this book proves that a hundred times over. It's disgusting and vile and absolutely true. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is one of those books that speaks volumes. It's horrific and raw and threatens to expose the reader to a world they might not choose to believe in, but exists none the less.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a story about learning when to keep things secret and when to tell the truth about what has happened. It is a story about learning to reinvent yourself and believe in yourself when you have so long been told exactly what to think and punished when you have veered from the norm. While an excellent story, there were times when it seemed to drag. It does provide many excellent lessons and gets you thinking about blind faith and how you feel about the things that you believe in your life.

This is a very strong debut novel. It is often heart wrenching and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The religious aspects and the whole blind faith were really interesting too.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes, is a beautifully harrowing and emotional read about the both the power and danger of faith. Minnow Bly is a seventeen year old former Kevinian cult member sitting in juvenile detention. She attempted a rebellion against the Prophet, so he had her father chop off her hands. Then the Prophet turns up dead, and the Kevinian camp is destroyed by fire. Minnow may have done it, or she may not have, but she most certainly knows what happened that night—and she won’t speak of it to anyone. Minnow is forced to relearn everything that she knows about life and how to live it, and in the process, she begins a journey to finding true faith and freedom. Minnow is a powerful, powerful narrator. Having gone into the woods with the Kevinians at the age of five, Minnow has some memories of the outside world. She has a foundation to believe things outsiders take for granted, like the fact that meteors really ARE meteors and not war bombs fired by the Gentiles to destroy the Kevinians. Minnow is completely believable as she navigates the outside world almost like a newborn; not only does she need to relearn how to function without hands, she also needs to learn how to function when she’s no longer a Kevinian. A weaker author may have inserted Minnow directly into the outside storyline and left the religion behind, but Oakes draws her world all the way through with precision and ease. Minnow’s struggle is incredibly realistic. I also really enjoyed the character of Angel. Her hope and faith, or lack there of, make an interesting foil to Minnow’s own budding beliefs. One of the best parts of this book is the care that Oakes takes with building the Kevinian religion. The different prophecies, beliefs, and foundations of the religion woven throughout make the book all the more solid. This is one of those books that had legitimate potential to be a cheese factory, but it ended up precisely the opposite. Oakes’ care with world building supports strong characters and an amazing story. Thus far, this book is my Number One for 2015. It has a little of everything—murder, mystery, cult, guilt, shame, grief, faith, and how all of these things knot together and come undone, only to knot together again. Plus, the prose is beautiful and intricate. So y’all need to read it. Like now. Or, rather, on June 9th. Preorder now :). But be prepared to feel emotions. Keep the Kleenex close by. 5 stars. Because that’s my max.

This is a starkly told story about a girl's escape from a cult and the dangers of believing in something without knowing why. Minnow was brought into the Kevinian cult by her parents at the age of five and never really questioned the leader's authority. As she grows into a teenager and meets someone outside the enclave she begins to think for herself, which leads to some grave consequences. Minnow Bly will stay with me for a long time.

I gave this book 4 stars. It was shocking, sad and heartbreaking. It always shocks me to read about these cults and the people that follow the prophets. It's amazing that they blindly follow this one creepy guy. I will be thinking about this book for quite a while.

It's all too easy to bash a religion when there are so many people in the world who cling desperately to the teachings they believe in. And I don't want to sound like I'm religion-hating because for some it has its rightful place...but taking religions too far to the point of cultism is easy to envision since it happens more than we'd like to admit. The concept of the cult and what happens in the aftermath of the cult's dismantling is explored in Stephanie Oakes's The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. Minnow Bly is a 17 year old girl who is part of the Kevinian religious group living out in the wilderness of Montana. Having spent 12 years of her life as a part of this polygyny where the children aren't supposed to know who their birth mother is. Minnow has a secret from all of her fellow Kevinians--and it's a dark-skinned boy by the name of Jude. When Kevin the Prophet communes with God and learns that he should wed Minnow, she rebels and from that rebellion, she loses her hands. Not long after hands are amputated, the Kevinian settlement goes up in flames and Minnow is taken into police custody and sentenced to jail, where she gets a dose of the real world. With a narrative told in flashbacks and current time action to flesh out the tale, a decent element of suspense is woven into the story. As a coming of age story, there are larger consequences and implications presented in the narrative, which provide a sense of realism to a story that are all too real. The chapters are brief and quickly-paced to maintain a page-turner feel. It is always interesting to view the society you live in from the perspective of an outsider, and Minnow's perspective on the contemporary world was revealing to what we take for granted and assume to be true. Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

This book was probably my #1 most anticipated 2015 release and I was so beyond happy to be able to read an advanced copy thanks to Penguin's First To Read Program. The first thing that grabbed me was the cover and the title but when I read the description I knew for sure I would end up really liking this book. I've always been interested in things like cults and extreme religious groups so this definitely fit in with my interests. When Minnow was five, her parents decided to leave the modern world behind and follow the Prophet into the woods to create the Community. When you are five years old, your mind is very impressionable so it was incredible to see Minnow questioning the world around her when everybody else took the Prophet at his word, even when he contradicted himself. It’s amazing to see a child questioning things that adults are taking as absolute truths. She is such a strong character and it was exciting to watch her grow and learn all of the things she had wondered about her entire life. Her strength shows in her time spent in the forest with Jude and during her time spent in juvie. At one point it is mentioned that by being in jail she has traded one prison (the community) for another. But she knows that this prison is freeing her and helping her move on from her horrid past. With the help of Dr. Wilson she is able to feel things she may not have been able to feel otherwise. The other characters in the story all have an important impact on Minnow's life, especially Jude, Angel and Dr. Wilson. All three were instrumental in bringing about changes for the better in Minnow. I loved how everyone warned Minnow to steer clear of Angel and yet Angel was a key player in helping Minnow get through her experience in juvie. I got really nervous when Minnow and the other girls were out picking the fruit trees and she saw Jude. I felt really connected to her by then and didn’t want anything bad to happen. She had already been through so much that getting caught would not have been good. Although Jude helped her get through her time in the community, I didn’t really think he was good for her once she escaped. It was vital for her to be on her own and be able to make her own choices for once in her life. I think one of my favorite things about this book was the way it was written. In the present, Minnow is in juvie and recollecting everything that happened to her through flashbacks that are brought on by things happening to her in the moment. It was interesting to be able to connect her current situations with those from her past and to see her relive those moments. I think it helped to get a better picture of who she is. Overall I loved this book and can’t wait to read it again! I will definitely be purchasing a copy of this book for my personal collection AND recommending it to my friends and followers. 5/5 Stars

Wow, this book was so good! I have been dying to read this one since I first heard about it and it did not disappoint. The very first page was so haunting and disturbing that I was captivated right away and I couldn't put it down. I would have read this all in one sitting if I could have. This book was intriguing and dark but it also had its light moments too. The characters were all well developed and the narrative switches back and forth from past to present so smoothly that I never got lost. And the writing was excellent! I can't wait to read more from this author in the future. 4.5 Stars

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly felt like a mash-up of several books I liked better. It pains me to say that, because this book was on my most anticipated debut lists of the year. This book is one part The Walls Around Us, Gated, and If You Find Me, but it didn’t reach the beautiful writing and storytelling of the first, or the emotional impact of the second two. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly opens with Minnow(yes, that’s her name, and it’s given to her BEFORE her family joined the cult) in a slightly frenzied state after having attacked a boy. Slowly, it’s revealed that Minnow’s hands where cut off by her father as punishment in the community, and just when she manages to escape there’s also a fire that kills the prophet, aka cult leader. She attacks a boy she perceives as a threat and is convicted and sent to a juvenile facility. What happens after that is rather. . . well, boring and strange. As Minnow talks to characters throughout the novel, the story of what really happened the night of the fire starts to unravel. Minnow felt like she was supposed to be an unreliable narrator, but I never felt like Oakes really committed to Minnow’s unreliability. She doesn’t really lie or hide, she just evades and drags the story on. To me, that’s not a good unreliable narrator, but a heavy-handed way to keep a story going. I did like the way the cult was set up, and wish there had been more of it. One thing I liked was the emphasis was that this was not a cult that started as an offshoot of Christianity or a monotheistic religion. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but all the YA cults books I’ve read before definitely lean heavily on Christian influences. The cult in The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is entirely different. They’re Kevinians, and it’s an entirely new religion. I did also like the realism as far as I can tell to how Minnow’s missing hands impact her life, especially in a place like a detention facility. Oakes doesn’t shy away from the horror of how it actually happened and how Minnow adjusts. Those were the highlights. The main drawback? The dialogue. It felt so, so off all the time. The more I read, the more I kept thinking “Nobody talks like this.” And I don’t mean just Minnow, as that could possibly be explained by her growing up in the Kevinian community. Every other character, from the prosecutors to the fellow inmates to the guards. Despite Minnow’s supposed narrative unreliability, everyone else sure doesn’t seem to have a problem with declaring their motivations and intentions all the time. I don’t think The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly really hit the mark it aimed for. I did find a lot of promise in the writing, on a structuring level, so I’ll probably give future books by this author a chance. As a debut, though, it felt rough.

Whenever I come across a book that is such a mix of dark and bright, I'm always intrigued, but I found this book and it's haunting prose particularly impressive for its ability to surprise me at almost every turn. I didn't know anything about these characters or the plot, but I managed to make assumptions about everything, all of which the author managed to carefully and thoughtfully disprove time and again. Of course the plot is compelling because Minnow is the only one with all the answers, and she is holding her cards close right up until the end. The author's true craft, though, is in the narrative, which seamlessly slips between the past and present, building suspense and giving a true reckoning of a girl that isn't as weak and naive as circumstances would have you initially believe. Minnow is a character who would be so easy to pity, but she is so much more than the things that have been done to her, and the author succeeded in drawing her as a complex character that lives and breathes beyond the page. Readers will be horrified as details become clearer, but they will still feel certain that Minnow is a survivor. I particularly enjoyed the friendship that formed between her and her hardened teen cell mate. Their sisterhood is a nice parallel to the twisted sisterhood that failed to protect Minnow when she needed it most. Themes of friendship, forgiveness, revenge and love add real depth to the story, but the biggest message is finding your own truth in a world where others will use their idea of truth to enslave you. I had never read the Grimm's fairytale that inspired this book, but when I did, I was pretty awestruck by the brilliance of this reimagining. I think my high school students will enjoy this book, especially those who enjoyed Julie Berry's All The Truth That's in Me and it's enigmatically silent and haunted narrator. Adults, too, will find this book hard to put down. Situations and language make this a book best suited for mature high school readers.

I wasn't a big fan of the book. It never really hooked me in, as much as the summary did. It was very slow for me. It was good in some spots but depressing in others. I also would of liked to find out what happens to Minnow in the end.


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