Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Thirteen-year-old Kyra is an unwilling, unhappy member of the polygamist cult known as "The Chosen Ones." A sect which believes that God created women to serve man, and it is up to their men to discipline them and keep them, and their children, in line, those feeble in body and mind are unworthy of heaven and deserve to be put out of their misery like wounded dogs, long hair modestly braided, long sleeves and long-skirted dresses are derigueur, The Bible is the only suitable reading matter, all other books are the work of Satan, modern medical treatment is banned even though women suffer through the complications of repeat pregnancies, and a man cannot attain Heaven unless he has at least three wives. The cult lives on an isolated desert compound with its own police force, known as "The God Squad," to enforce the rules laid down by the Prophet and the leading members of his church, known as the Disciples.

Kyra finds an unexpected window into the world when she is befriended by Patrick, the kind-hearted driver of the library's bookmobile. He stops every week to give her a fresh book, which she keeps hidden and devours like a starving person, relishing each and every word. Through the richness of literature--everything from "Anne of Green Gables" to "Harry Potter"--she discovers a whole new, magical world that changes her forever.

Kyra also unexpectedly finds love with Joshua, a slightly older boy, who shuns the cult's polygamist beliefs and wants to choose Kyra to be his one and only bride. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle, Hyrum, a brutal man who even disciplines a baby for crying in front of the Prophet by making its mother hold it down in a basin of ice water until it turns blue, Kyra must choose between her beloved family and breaking free into the outside world.

Although brief, "The Chosen One" is a gripping tale of the crimes that are committed in the name of religion and the cult leaders who set themselves up as self-styled demigods and rule their followers with fear and an iron glove. And the abuse that is meted out to women and innocent children in God's name, and how religious beliefs are made into shackles that chafe, bind, and strangle, and sometimes kill those who strain against them trying to break free. 

Note: Though marketed as suitable for young readers, there are some disturbing scenes of violence in "The Chosen One." Parents who monitor their children's reading matter might want to review this one first before putting it in young hands.

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