Dial / Penguin
June 9, 2015
Minnow Bly has spent twelve years in the Kevinian cult. Twelve years living away from society, twelve years of her parents blindly following everything the Prophet says. Their decisions have cost her a home, a family, and perhaps worst of all, her hands. Now, at seventeen years old, she finds herself in juvie, trying to come to terms with everything that’s happened and achieve the freedom she’s always wanted.
Throughout The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, Stephanie Oakes makes great use of time as a storytelling tool. The past is told out of order with the present as a consistent thread. The novel starts after Minnow has already left the Kevinian cult. But while in juvenile detention she is able to make a deal with an FBI detective—she gives him information about the cult and what happened to the Prophet, and he recommends her for parole on her eighteenth birthday.
But at the heart of this novel are some strong themes of truth, choice, family, and most of all faith. Minnow’s family experience isn’t typical. Her biological parents didn’t always work in her best interest and in the case of the cult, were often responsible for harming her rather than taking care of her. But in other ways the cult was a family. They all made sure the needs of the community were met together. And later, juvie becomes a kind of family as well. Through all the ups and downs, this novel explores the different facets of family and our ability to find family in unconventional ways.
In a similar way, Scared Lies demonstrates how easy faith can be found anywhere and not just faith like the Kevinians have. Take for example, Angel, Minnow’s cellmate. Her faith in science and nature is what gives her strength. But Scared Lies doesn’t advocate for blind faith—Minnow learns throughout that it’s important to always ask questions and to find your own truth, because there is no lack of faith in the act of asking. In fact, failing to ask questions and to learn more makes it even easier for people to be manipulated via their faith. Minnow’s parents were so desperate to believe in something greater they were able to look past all the horrible things going on. Faith can be powerful and empowering for some people in the book, but it can be damaging and dangerous for others
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a dark, gripping novel about one girl struggling to understand what happened to her and find what’s true to her. Her voice is so strong, and her personality comes through on every page. Stephanie Oakes is a gifted writer, and the story is descriptive and vivid—and not for the faint of heart! Some scenes are violent and hard to read. But it’s probably one of the best written books so far this year.