Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Prophet Calls

35734765Sumrow, Melanie. The Prophet Calls
November 6th 2018 by Yellow Jacket
ARC provided by publisher

Gentry lives with her very extended family in a small community in New Mexico. They are led by the Prophet, and her father is one of the elders in the community. He has three wives, and many children who attend school in the Prophets house, since he has been in prison for a few years. The boys learn survival skills, and the girls learn homemaking and other skills that will make them good wives and mothers. Gentry isn't happy that she has to stop playing games when she turns 13, but she's even more upset when a new pronouncement from the Prophet (who calls the community weekly with his revelations) forbids women from leaving the community at all. It's too dangerous, but Gentry and her brother Tanner are set to compete in a musical competition, since they both play violin very well. Gentry's father even gives her a new violin, so she is okay with Tanner's plans to sneak out. The outside world is a little scary, but there are some nice people, and the bluegrass song the siblings play is well received. However, there father shows up at the competition to take them home, and things do not go well when they get there. Tanner is sent away from the community as an apostate, and Gentry is punished. She is very angry, especially when her older sister Meryl is pressed into a hasty marriage with one of the older men, and her sister Amy's record player is taken away as being a tool of the devil. When the Prophet decides that Gentry's father can no longer control his wives and children, he is sent away, and his wives are reassigned to other men. Gentry and her family end up being sent far away from their community to another one, and when Gentry finds that she is going to be forced to marry a boy she dislikes, she finally decides to strike out on her own, with the help of some relatives.
Strengths: This is a timely novel about religious oppression of young women, and about one young woman who is brave enough to confront her oppressors. It was well written and descriptive, and Gentry's relationship with her young relatives is warm and supportive, especially since the adults are all too wrapped up in their religion to do the right thing. The lengths to which Gentry and her siblings and cousins go to escape are intriguing and exciting, and readers who like books where children are abused will find this to be a new topic that is not much discussed.
Weaknesses: Is this offensive to religious people? I am not in a position to judge. To me, ALL religions are the dictates of men thinly disguised as "the will of God". While this is a fictitious religion, will people in religions that severely limit the rights and experiences of women feel that this is a strike against them as well? Or would they stay far enough from this sort of book that they would never know about it? While most people would agree that marrying off girls at the age of 13 is a bad, bad idea, I just had a weird feeling that religious people might feel this book is also denigrating their own beliefs.
What I really think: This was very much like The Child Bride of Short Creek, a 1981 movie with Diane Lane and Christopher Atkins. It was certainly a page turner, but I'm not sure how big a demand there is among my students for books about polygamist sects.
Ms. Yingling

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