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The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Cover of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
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Now 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.
Now 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.
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  • Kindle Book
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    5.2
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    4

Recommended for you

 
Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book

    • • •

    Chapter 1

    I am a blood-soaked girl.

    Before me, a body. Pulped. My boots drenched with his blood. I search out his eyes, but they're gone, hidden away behind pale lids.

    My breath comes hard and white in the freezing air. Inside each breath is the understanding that this is how it feels, controlling someone, bending their body to your will.

    I wonder if this is how the Prophet felt the moment he ordered my hands ripped from me.

    Above, a car races across the bridge with a metal shudder. Fingernail-sized flakes of snow fall through the yellow haze of streetlights, and a few cold stars blink in a dark sky. I want to hold my hand flat to catch the snowflakes like I used to when I was little. But, I remind myself, my hands are gone, and I'm not five anymore. The girl I used to be could almost be dead.

    I hunker beside a snowbank, watching the red on the ground slowly ice over. I feel suddenly cold. Colder than even the outside air. Colder than I've ever been in my life.

    Chapter 2

    When the police arrive they are blurry white shapes, like ghosts, stuffed inside tight blue uniforms. My eyes can't follow their features. One moment, I grasp an eye, a nose, but it slips away just as quickly and all I sense are their voices, scribbling over the light of the new morning. The ruined mess of the boy's body is shoved inside an ambulance, and it screams down the street.

    The cops try handcuffing me around my stumps, but the metal slides off. I bite my lip against the cold steel grating over my newborn pink skin.

    "Do we even need to cuff her?" one cop mutters.

    "Look at what she did," the other insists. "You saw the kid, looked like he'd been run over."

    "But, just look at her."

    Look at me. My arms are crossed over my stomach and, at the end of the arms, an absence of hands, of fingers, of fists, of nails. Of any way to fight back. I feel the cops' eyes inch over the homespun trousers and the disgusting rag of a shirt Jude gave me, the fabric blazoned with blood.

    In the end, they squeeze the cuffs around my elbows, the pressure nearly popping my shoulders from the sockets, but I don't scream. I don't say anything. I feel like I have said enough for my entire life.

    Chapter 3

    My first view of the city is from a police car. I stare out the thumbprinted window as the sun peels back over buildings locked in by snowfall.

    "You better hope he lives," one of the cops says, and suddenly the boy is all I can see again—the broken face, teeth chucked in the snow. My veins are still tight from adrenaline.

    • • •

    At the police station, it's wood walls and stained ceiling tiles. The smell of charred coffee.

    They are discussing the best way to fingerprint me.

    "It must be done," they say. "How will we identify her without fingers?" Just like that, they've said something I've felt for months but never said aloud. One of them leafs through a police manual, searching for the proper procedure, while the other pushes each stump into a pad of ink and presses them onto paper. Two warped black ovals in a field of white.

    "Looks like we only need a DNA sample," the first one says, glancing up from the manual. He rummages in a drawer and pulls out a small square of cotton, unwraps it, and holds it before me. "Spit."

    "You want my spit?"

    "Just do it."

    I gather up all the moisture I can in my mouth and let it fall to the cotton square. He closes it in a small plastic box with a sliding lid and places it on his desk.

    The mug shot they take burns half circles into my vision, worse than any firelight. I clamp my arm...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 27, 2015
    A harrowing opening scene immerses readers in 17-year-old narrator Minnow’s trauma, as she responds to a perceived threat with astonishing brutality, while carrying the skeletal remains of her own amputated hands. Minnow was five when her parents followed Prophet Kevin into the wilderness to found a rustic commune of Kevinians, who worship the God Charlie and obey prophesies divinely dictated to Kevin, such as, “It is my Commandment that ye do again this task, with Minnow, daughter of Samuel, for she be in need of spiritual intervention of the kind that marriage provides.” The narrative weaves between the hellish prison of the past that Minnow longed to escape and the juvenile prison she enters, which becomes an unexpected haven where she learns to read, make friends, and “think about the universe, and the earth, and the stars.” As Minnow recounts both shocking cruelty and acts of kindness—most movingly from her one friend outside the commune, the boy she assaulted, and her “lifer” cellmate—suspense, dread, and hope intermingle in Oakes’s charged, page-turning debut. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)’

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2015
    A girl who has just escaped a destructive cult after her hands were cut off lives in juvenile detention, found guilty of assault, a crime she indeed did commit. Minnow was taken at a young age to live with her family in an extreme cult called the Community. The Prophet rules through fear, inflicting sadistic punishments for any infraction, including chopping off Minnow's hands. Girls are kept illiterate, and polygyny is the order of the day. (Manufactured whole cloth by the Prophet, their religion has nothing to do with Christianity.) In the woods, she meets Jude, to whom she is drawn even though he is an outsider and forbidden. Jude tries to teach her to read, but he too has been kept in ignorance. While in juvenile detention, however, her savvy cellmate, Angel, introduces her to the world of science. Minnow learns to read and discovers that, although she believes she'll be sent to the adult prison when she turns 18, she would like to learn much more. Oakes uses flashbacks to slowly unveil the major plot-how Minnow lost her hands and the aftermath-as she follows Minnow's life in prison. The absurdity and cruelty of the cult and its Prophet also slowly come to light, all occurring as Minnow herself begins to find her own way. Dark and not just a little sensational but hugely involving nevertheless. (Fiction. 12-18)

  • School Library Journal

    April 1, 2015

    Gr 9 Up-Minnow Bly survives when her hands are chopped off as punishment for refusing to wed the self-proclaimed "Kevinian" Prophet, leader of an oppressive, polygamous Montana wilderness cult in which she was raised. When someone sets fire to the Community and the Prophet is killed, Minnow runs away. Furious, frightened, and heartbroken, she lashes out and commits a hideous random assault, almost kicking a mentally disturbed young man to death-hence the gruesome, startling opening sentence, "I am a blood-soaked girl." Imprisoned for this crime in a juvenile detention facility until age 18, Minnow is coaxed to reveal the truth about the demise of the Community. As she struggles to understand the world around her and to choose what secrets to keep or let go, her tough yet wise cellmate Angel, murderer of an uncle for sexual assault, becomes a friend and guide. Minnow learns to read; discloses a secret, forbidden romance with Jude, a biracial boy she met in the forest; and finally reveals what actually happened the night the Community went up in flames. Based on Grimm's fairy tale, "The Handless Maiden," the powerful, fluent writing; engrossing and well-layered mystery; compelling characters; and provocative ideas about family, faith, honesty, loyalty, and friendship are engaging. VERDICT Ellen Hopkins devotees and fans of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (St. Martin's Griffin, 2009) will seek this one out.-Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • DOGO Books kem0611 - This book was really interesting. The plot unfolded in a way that created suspense, It also gave a unique perspective into what it might be like to be in a cult and also the juvenile detention system. I was a bit disappointed with the ending though.
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Stephanie Oakes
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