My mom read this and passed it along to me, saying it was good but very sad, and that about hits the nail on the head. This was so, so good. And so very fascinating. But also terribly sad. Aside from my fascination with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I also simply thought this was a really well written and constructed novel.
Emily is a young girl growing up in a small town in Canada in her very strict JW family. She has an older sister Lenora who was baptized early and impressed all the elders, but Emily is finding out that her sister is now becoming rebellious. Lenora is hanging around with “worldly” kids, maybe has a boyfriend, wears inappropriate clothing and listens to inappropriate music (punk and punk.) Emily is worried about her sister and what will become of her. She believes everything her father and elders tell her, even if she doesn’t really enjoy being a Witness. Especially because she is terribly teased by classmates, and more so when her father takes her “out in service” (which is going door to door) and she has to go to her classmates’ houses.
What I really liked was how the book was put together. There are chapters that cover what I just said, but they alternate with chapters from the p.o.v. of Emily as a young adult, clearly living in a city, on her own. Has she voluntarily left the Witnesses? Been kicked out? And what happened to her sister? There’s an element of mystery that gets closer and closer to being revealed as the two timelines grow closer together. It’s also clear from the older Emily sections that whatever it was that happened in the past, whether simply being raised in essentially a cult, or from something else (or, likely, a combination), that Emily now has mental problems, as evidenced by OCD behaviors and cutting (the only time she can make herself feel anything.)
I confirmed with a friend who was raised as a JW that all those parts of the story were accurate, which made this book even more enlightening and horrifying. I really enjoyed it, though there were parts I wish the author had expanded on, including the ending.