The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Written by Stephanie Oakes
Contemporary, Retelling
Expected Publication June 22nd 2015
352 Pages
Thank you to Harper Collins Australia and Netgalley
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★★★
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 unlearn 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.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith, and the power of having faith in oneself.
Seventeen year old Minnow Bly stares from the bars through her iron cage at the Missoula County Juvenile Detention Center, incarcerated and awaiting her fate. Minnow is missing twelve years of her life, after at the tender age of five her father packed up his family for the wilderness of Alberton, following the word of a professed prophet. God walks among humans upon the Earth and the Prophet has been touched by God to lead his community, with other like minded families following a greater calling. God lives in each generation of believers, dying and being reborn as a neighbour, a friend, even a janitor cleaning a restroom, to which he was discovered by the prophet.

The prophets word is gospel, each man within the community taking multiple wives, some barely legal while her new husband is generations her senior. Non believers are not only punished, but tortured. Especially those caught fraternizing with those outside of the community, deeming non believers as dirty and instill the fear that they want to kill them all.

Jude lives within the woodland, his father having moved his family to the serene forest to escape the city and care for his wife who is battling an illness. Now just Jude and his father, he too longs to escape his extreme religious beliefs, a bruised and battered young man quickly losing hope.

As their world's collide, both Minnow and Jude begin to see the truth of their world, before it all comes crashing down. But Minnow isn't a damsel in distress, she's been tortured, betrayed, violated and is determined to save herself. Her name is Minnow Bly, and this is her story.

MY THOUGHTS

As morbid as it sounds, I'm fascinated by cults. Those who pack up their lives and families and move into commune conditions to follow what is culturally seen as a socially unacceptable way of life without interference. Alberton is a fictional storyline that echos within these communities all over the world. It follows the story of Minnow, now one of nineteen children her own father has produced and has lived within the community for twelve years before that fateful night it all came crashing down. Minnow's story is told from the Missoula County Juvenile Detention Center, where she has been sentenced to six years for the brutal assault of a man mistaken for someone else. She's scared, but her quiet resolve draws cellmate Angel to her defense, the two girls finding a kindred spirit and shared experience between them both. As Minnow's crime was committed under duress, authorities are willing to strike a deal for her release upon her eighteenth birthday, in exchange for her story.

The result is an eerie and beautifully written story of hope, determination and a question of faith. I absolutely adored Minnow who proves that a strong protagonist doesn't need to show a force of strength, but her quiet style of defiance was inspiring and takes readers on her journey of self discovery and acceptance. Through her meetings with forensic psychologist Doctor Wilson, Minnow's story is nothing short of horrific. Readers are confronted with her emotionless removal from her ordeal, from the Prophet law community members abide by, to the misogyny towards women and expected Polygamy of men taking multiple wives. Taking wives that are also underage. But none more so than Minnow having her hands removed. It was distressing to say the least.

Throughout her poignant story, hope lies in the hands of Jude, a boy who knows abuse at the hands of a loved one and their blossoming romance becomes an anchor for Minnow's respite from the Community, if only for a brief moment. Jude isn't her hero, nor does he rescue her from the captive environment but rather provides Minnow with the confidence and tools to inspire her to save herself. He isn't necessarily a love interest, but a representation of another world that is waiting for her.

THE VERDICT

It's hard to fathom that this is a debut novel. A psychological, yet poignant storyline that readers can completely immerse themselves in. Said to be a retelling of The Handless Maiden, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is confident, beautifully written and a forward thinking young adult release that will endear readers to Minnow's plight. The storyline builds in layers, revealing more of Minnow's world as she shares pieces of her story, ending in a crescendo that will leave you feeling a sense of justice and fulfillment. Absolutely remarkable.

68 comments

  1. All right. All right. I'm sold. And done with the barrage of five star-reviews for this book. Just ordered it. Lol.

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    1. It's one of the best young adult books you'll read all year Joy. Can't wait to see what you think of it.

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  2. Wow, sounds incredible. I kept hearing about the name of this book but I never knew what it was about until now. I love the fact that it's psychologically complex and I love that you said the ending is fulfilling. Thanks for the review!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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    1. It's incredible, one of the most enthralling books I've read this year. Minnow's story is shocking and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is one book that demands to be read.

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  3. Woah. I want this book. Like, right now! :o Fantastic review, as always, Kelly! :D

    Blessie @ Mischievous Reads

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    1. Thanks Blessie and you totally do. Please grab a copy as soon as it's released I need someone to talk to about that awesomeness that is Minnow Bly.

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  4. I love psychological thrillers OMGOODNESS!! I love how this book sounds and the cover looks very creepy like, it really makes me want to read it. I love your blog header so much, it kind of makes me cry because your's is so pretty and mine is ugly. OMGGG I just love the deer head and the lovely flowers underneath. IT"S SO BEAUTIFUL and u seem to be changing it a lot.

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

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    1. Thanks Alex. But I love yours! The watercolours are absolutely lovely.

      It's an incredible read, I was glued to the pages (or the Kindle equivalent of pages). I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to see what you think of it Alex.

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  5. Great review. It's one of my favourite reads of the year. Everyone needs to read this book!

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    1. I couldn't agree more Nicole. It was incredible!

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  6. I am *exactly* the same about cults, haha. Yaaaay! I'm so glad you liked this one. I read this a couple of months ago, and when I started, I remembered thinking, "Oh, I'll just read one chapter." HA HA HA. Nope. That didn't work, obviously. I devoured the novel pretty quickly after that ;)

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    1. Me too Kara, they absolutely fascinate me. It was impossible to put down wasn't it. I was doing the same. One more chapter turned into a few more hours and then I'd finished. Well worth reading into the early hours of the morning.

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  7. I can't wait to read this; I think I'll tackle it tomorrow. It just sounds so fascinating. Great review, as always!

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    1. Thanks Sophie. It's incredible! Get ready to have your socks blown clean off your feet!

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  8. This sounds so good! I wasn't sure if I'd give it a go or not, but after your review, I'd like to check it out. *looks at TBR pile, cries* I love that it was fully fleshed and didn't feel like a debut, that's always a promising sign. Lovely review, Kelly!

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    1. I couldn't believe it was her debut novel, I had to check twice. Amazing. Imagine where she'll be in five years time. Incredible. Yes, you need to sit this one on top of the to read pile, most definitely.

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  9. Why was this one not on my radar? You've convinced me to reeavaulte every life choice Kelly *orders online*

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    1. I'm so glad to see that it is now Lily. It's brilliant and I'm now making it this weeks mission to demand that everyone read it. I can't wait to see what you think of it.

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  10. Gosh, I've been hearing about the brilliance of this book all week! I checked out its Goodreads page and saw all these 5 stars after 5 stars from friends and trusted reviewers alike. Plus, cults are creepy but they are fascinating to read (as morbid as that sounds... don't judge meh) and psychological? HELLS. YEAH.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. You need this book Faye. It's utterly incredible. I don't think we all agree on a book all that often, but this one is it. It's enthralling, engaging and will have you glued to the pages.

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  11. HOW GOOD WAS IT????? I just loved it. And Angel was SUCH an amazing character. I'm also pretty fascinated by cults. It was so disturbing but such a great read (and I know, a DEBUT! Crazy).

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    1. I know! It was absolutely brilliant! I wonder why more young adult authors haven't explored cults actually, considering we've all eaten this up and loved it. So glad you loved it as well poppet.

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  12. You know how I am about thrillers Kelly, so how can I resist this one?! This sounds like such a spine-tingling, creepy story and I hope I end up liking it as much as you did when I manage to get a copy. Thanks for sharing and fabulous review! ♥

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    1. You can't Zoe, you can't resist the lure that is The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. You must purchase it, read it and love it as much as we all have. You'll adore it though Zoe, I have no doubt.

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  13. Gosh, what a great review, Kelly!!
    I am very interested in cults as well and I've never read a book about them, so I'll be sure to check this one out!!! =*

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    1. Me either, well not a traditional type cult. There's been a few cult like communities in dystopian. But this was incredible Frannie, not only did it take me by surprise, but I was absolutely enthralled.

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  14. I've been hearing good things about this one for a while but haven't really took the time to check it out, if I HAD I WOULD ALREADY BE FINDING WAYS TO READ IT.

    Omg this sounds so good, Kelly! And I find that stories that feature cults can be quite interesting so I definitely want to give this one a shot and hopefully I'll love it as much as you did! :)

    Fantabulous review, hon <3

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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    1. I have absolutely no doubt that you will Rashika. It's unlike anything in young adult I've read before, it quite dark and doesn't play down the conditions within the community either. You'll be completely enamored by Minnow and her story.

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  15. I feel like such a dumbass because I passed up the opportunity to review this! I wasn't sure if I would have that much time to read it, being that my reading load was already pretty damn hefty. But you know what, I'm buying this. Like ASAP!

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    1. Oh no. In all fairness though, it sounds pretty unassuming. It's one of those books that takes you by surprise and then shakes you about for a few hours. It was INCREDIBLE! I can't wait to see what you think of it Tika, you're almost guaranteed to absolutely love it too.

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  16. You had me with this: "Minnow who proves that a strong protagonist doesn't need to show a force of strength, but her quiet style of defiance was inspiring and takes readers on her journey of self discovery and acceptance." I've been very curious about this story - not sure if it is for me, but this sounds so tempting!
    Thanks for the wonderful review, Kelly :)

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    1. Thanks Kim. I think this most of the wider young adult reading community will enjoy this one. It's a contemporary, but with a dark and very realistic twist with the cult community. Hopefully when it's released, you might be able to download a sample Kim, it's an incredible read.

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  17. OMG Kels you changed your design again! And I love it!! Seriously... they keep getting beautifuller and beautifuller (that is a word don't tell me otherwise). I am so excited to read this book, and you're making me even more motivated to pick it up!

    Fantastic review, hun <33

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    1. I did poppet and thank you.

      It's awesome. You need this book. NEED. IT. I can't praise it highly enough. It will knock your socks into next week.

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  18. I've never read a story actually based on cults (what's up with that?? Ikr?) But it seems that everyone else thinks they're scary. I too agree that you don't have to show a character as being strong (by acts of strength) but that like you said a "quiet defiance." I'm add this to Goodreads. I have to see what everyone is talking about! Thanks for the review. :)

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    1. There aren't too many around, I've only come across one other cult type book in young adult, and it was more Utopian than contemporary. This book is magnificent. No other way to describe it really. Can't wait to see what you think of it Keionda.

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  19. "One of nineteen children her own father has produced" <- This sounds so scary but in a I-need-to-read-this-now kind of way. ;) And sometimes it'll be a good change to read about a more quiet than headstrong main character. I also love how you mentioned that Jude wasn't a knight in shining armor, but was more of a rock to help Minnow up. Fantastic review, Kelly! You're making me so excited for this. <33

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    1. He really was Aimee. Rather than introduce a love interest who frees her from the confines of the Community, his character introduces her to his world and that starts Minnow on her journey. For me, that's the mark of a brilliant author, not having to rely on a typical teen romance to create strength in a heroine. You'll adore this one Aimee, without a doubt.

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  20. I'm glad you loved this one! I only liked this one, but I find it so sad and heartbreaking how Minnow was in juvie. AND SAME WITH ANGEL. She was my favorite character!

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    1. Me too poppet. I think it really added to the overall emotion of Minnow's story. I loved Angel, she played the part of being a tough girl, but fiercely protective of Minnow only endeared me to her more.

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  21. This sounds so good. I read Down From The Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer earlier this year and have been looking for another good book about cults ever since then.

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    1. Ooh, I haven't heard of that one Lacey, will have to check it out. I'm fascinated by cults too, not enough to join one, but certainly to read about. I'd love to see what you think of Minnow Bly.

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  22. Wasn't it marvellous! Such a thought provoking novel. You reviewed this in a much more succinct and beautiful way than I could even manage (my brain is still reeling from finishing it last night)

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    1. Aww, thanks poppet. It was glorious wasn't it. I loved Minnow and couldn't tear myself away from her story. I read into the early hours of the morning and even then, had to hop online and start my review. I adored it.

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  23. I love books like this. It sounds like this gives the reader a lot to think about, and has some similar characteristics as one of my favorite books, The 19th Wife, without being the same thing. Thank you for the wonderful review. It is going on my TBR.

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    1. Awesome Suzi, really looking forward to seeing what you think of it. I haven't heard of The 19th Wife, but definitely going to check it out now. Thanks for the recommendation Suzi.

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  24. I've seen this one floating around quite a bit recently. It looks to be a book that would pose more questions than answers, and one that leaves a memorable aftertaste - it sounds utterly delicious to say the least. Lovely review Kelly <3

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    1. It's incredible Claudia and so wonderfully written. I absolutely adored it. I'd love to see what you think of it too.

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  25. Lovely review, Kelly. I've seen this around other blogs quite a bit but haven't taken too much notice until now. You've (once again) made me really want to read this. I agree with being fascinated by cults too, I think the fact they're so secretive makes them even more intriguing. If you haven't read it already, I'd also recommend The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams :)
    Michelle @ The Unfinished Bookshelf

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    1. Spot on Michelle, I think it's the secrecy and that we only ever hear about them on the news when there have been mass suicides or killings. There are probably far more cult type communities out there that we never hear about. I absolutely loved it. I was glued to the pages and desperately needed to find out what happens to Minnow. It was incredible compelling. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation. I haven't read that one and shall check it out.

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  26. Okay, now I REALLY have to read this one - I haven't read one single negative review about it or even mixed reviews, all of them seem to 4-5 ratings. I love the sound of the retelling in an actual realistic concept with the cults. I feel this book might have a strong impact, the premise sounds amazing already. I agree with Michelle^ The Chosen One was fantastic as well :) Beautiful review Kelly.
    <3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

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    1. I can't imagine we'll see many who won't enjoy this one either Benish, it's just that incredible. I haven't read the Handless Maiden, and wasn't aware that this was a retelling. It stands on it's own merits completely. I can't wait for you to grab a copy and looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

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  27. I absolutely adored this one as you did Kelly! I loved the main character's point of view, her confidence and arrogance and strength despite living in some horrors. Cults scare me, and I didn't enjoy Gated, but I loved this one. Beautiful review!

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    1. Thanks Jeann. I haven't read Gated, but remember your review and it didn't seem like my thing either. But this, I loved! I can't wait to see what the author has planned next.

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  28. I'm also fascinated with the concept of cults and the idea behind them. Initially I wasn't too sure about this one but I think you have convinced me, the writing and characterization sound gorgeous, and I am absolutely going to check this one out for myself.

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    1. I think it's the way cults are also portrayed in the media. We generally only hear about the ones who have had mass suicides or been involved in crime. It's an untapped subject when it comes to young adult fiction too. But this was incredible. I was completely enamoured with Minnow and her story. I can't wait to see what you think of it Alise.

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  29. Wonderful review, Kelly. I am really excited to read this book. I'm not that fussed on cult books, they just make me angry, but I am really intrigued by this story. I read a guest post by the author that really made me want to read it. I'm glad you loved it, I'm hoping I'll love it too.

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    1. I can almost guarantee that you will Rochelle. It's so beautifully written and you'll be enamored by Minnow's Story. can't wait to see what you think of it.

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  30. I started reading this yesterday, thinking I'd just read a couple of pages and then I got totally sucked in. It's so good! I'm looking forward to finishing it over the weekend, I'm totally amazed that this is a debut novel. The writing is quite amazing (so far, at least!) I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

    - Wattle @ Whimsical Nature

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    1. I felt exactly the same way Wattle, it was amazing and I couldn't put it down! I know right, a DEBUT! It's incredible to even fathom that. Looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

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  31. I was deeply impressed with this book. I too have an obsession with cults. I'm not joining one anytime soon, but their culture and ways fascinate me for some reason. I love the themes that Stephanie portrays and her debut is certainly stunning. Lovely review!

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    1. It completely fascinates me too, I think it's the secretive nature and not knowing much about them that makes them so intriguing. Stunning is the perfect description. So glad you enjoyed it too Rachel.

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  32. I also picked this book up because of the cult aspect. I love darkness and evil also like witch books so this cult thing was kind of scary. I'm so intrigued by this book and I just got it at Barnes & Noble so i"m going to be reading soon. I hope this is a solid read. Thanks for the review!

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

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    1. Ooh, without a doubt you'll love it Alex. It's so wonderfully written and although dark, it also instills hope in the reader and you can't help but cheer on Minnow as she finds her own feet again.

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  33. This book has been getting amazing reviews everywhere! I'm intrigued, there's few things scarier than religious fanatics and cults.

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    1. With Minnow Bly, they've actually created their own religion. To the reader, it seems ridiculous when it comes to their beliefs, but imagine growing up in that environment and not knowing any different. Frightening stuff. It's incredible, looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

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