[The following is excerpted from my longer review of Cult Child by Vennie Kocsis at Patheos.]
Cult Child is a novelization of the experiences of a real-life survivor, whose physical, sexual and spiritual child abuse were abetted by her mother’s deepening involvement with a highly controlling fundamentalist Christian group called The Move. Written in a restrained but engaging style, which I found vaguely reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s brilliantly understated bestseller, Never Let Me Go, the book opens with a prologue that states: “The events you are about to read are all true. Only names have been changed”.
The heroin is Sila Caprin, who progresses from age three to age thirteen over the course of the novel. These years are spent in the ‘safety’ —and prison-like conformity — of two of the Move‘s remote, communal farms. Upon arriving at the first of these, Sila and her family are stripped of their property, with their valuables being redistributed among other members of the commune, while sentimental items —like family photographs — are burned. From there, the family members are further isolated by assigning each to different sleeping and eating quarters.
Sila’s maltreatment then becomes constant. Some abuses, like disciplinary beatings, grueling farm work, and near-starvation rations, are directly commanded by church doctrine. Other crimes, such as Sila’s almost continuous sexual molestation, come as the predictable result of separating children from their own protective biological siblings and parents.
In the end, Sila’s fortress is no bigger than the space between her ears; but through quiet internal resistance, she manages to halt her opponents and outlasts their ten year siege.
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