The general gist of the book is this: Marina (nearly 14) accompanies her mother and multiple younger brothers to the top of a mountain with her mother's preacher and several others who refer to themselves as 'Believers.' Jed also goes, to accompany his father. Jed's not a Believer, but Marina is. Both of their parents have been separated (not amicably) from their respective spouses, so Marina and Jed are in somewhat similar positions in their young lives. So of course they're going to get together somehow on this mountain.
What do I love about this book? Well, three major things. One, it's written so that alternating chapters are from Marina's point of view and then Jed's point of view. Books that are written this way really help the reader get inside the characters' heads and understand multiple perspectives. Since religious cults typically are quite sensitive topics, multiple perspectives really do help the reader make sense of what's going on. Second, it's very easy to visualize what's happening in this book. When an author creates people, settings, and action that are easy to picture, the story lives more deeply and specifically inside me and is more plausible, whether it is historically accurate fiction or there are unicorns gamboling across a meadow. I appreciate that kind of writing. But what really blew me away about the book was that it represents just how a 'good' thing can go so terribly awry. We 'hear,' through the characters, about how perfectly intelligent, well-meaning people can be led astray, even by someone with the best of intentions. For example, Jed, who really does not consider himself one of the true Believers, says of Reverend Beelson ...
"I have to say that even when he was spouting nonsense there was something fascinating about him. His voice was rich and powerful, and the rhythm of his language rolled over you until you were caught in the surge and the pull of it, strong as a tide, carrying you out into the sea of what he believed." (page 134)
Something else that is amazing about this book is that I don't believe the authors' intent was to 'bash' religious cultism; the story actually helps to explain any faction's possible genesis. We know that many cult leaders simply have a yearning for power and dominion over others, but that is not necessarily always the case.
Whew! Serious stuff there! But the topic of the book truly is serious.
Anyway, I have more books to write about, too - I've been a BUSY reader! But this is all til next time. It is dusk on Labor Day Saturday, and I have labored enough for now. Time to relax by a camp fire with the neighbors'!