Carol Lynch Williams touches on a topic about which I have read a great deal over the past few months; a young woman trapped in a religious organisation. Writing this novella seemingly geared for the young adult population, Williams turns the focus onto a polygamous community and the plural wives mentality that turns innocent teenage girls into matrimonial dolls for the elders. Kyra Leigh Carlson is thirteen and has lived her entire life in a strict religious community, enveloped by the polygamist mentality. When the Prophet arrives one day to decree that she will marry one of the Apostles, her Uncle Hyrum, Kyra is beside herself with worry. Merely a girl, she has many of the typical feelings that a young person possesses: longing to grow-up, hoping to have innocent crushes, and discovering herself. Her eyes are by no means focussed on Hyrum, but turn, instead to a boy her own age, Joshua. The admiration seems mutual, though Kyra knows that she only has four weeks to get out of this mess before she becomes a child bride. Kyra’s only concrete contact with the outside world is through a mobile library, driven by a well-meaning young man, Patrick. Books that have been banned by the Prophet show her a world about which Kyra can only dream and freedom she knows she will never taste. The Chosen One by many, Kyra’s heart and mind must work in tandem to decide which she will follow. Physical abuse and banishment are only two of the many possible ways to keep those who stray from repeating their sin. Faced with a decision, Kyra knows that there is only one way out, but that choice could cost her everything she knows. A powerful story, Williams paints a realistic (from what I have read) version of the struggles inside polygamist sects ruled by fundamentalist Christianity.
A requested buddy read, I was not sure how I would stomach a young adult approach to the subject. I tend to find YA more interested in romanticizing the message and failing to penetrate to the core. However, Williams does a stellar job not to pull any punches (pardon the pun) by exemplifying just how far some of these groups will go to weed out errant thought. Further to this, there is the ongoing issue of pre-destined marriage that pervades the sect, both in the news and from those who have fled its confines. One cannot dismiss these as totally off the wall or without some merit and Williams does not shy away from revealing it as the foundation of her argument throughout. The characters within the story are top-notch and provide the reader with a realistic and varied sense of approaches to the theme. The narrative is crisp and yet what one might expect from a teenager at the helm, directing the story into corners that they might find important. Williams encapsulates the angst and struggle of a teenage girl faced with losing all she has ever hoped to find in life, as well as the fight for freedom, if only to define herself outside of what some prophet might decree.
Kudos, Madam Williams for getting to the root of this matter and presenting something for a younger audience. It was brilliantly portrayed and I am sure you will garner many fans for this and anything else you publish.