Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in her isolated community without ever questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters; without ever questioning the strict rules imposed by 'the Prophet who leads them. But now Kyra has started keeping secrets. She reads books that are forbidden and sneaks away to meet Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself, instead of having a husband chosen for her. Kyra knows that it's only a matter of time before her two secret loves are discovered. And when the Prophet decrees that she is to become the seventh wife of her sixty-year-old uncle, Kyra is forced to make a desperate choice. But saving herself means endangering everyone she's ever cared for. How far should she go for freedom?
Let me start by saying this book really took me out of my comfort zone. It really raises some powerful issues and alongside them some very powerful emotions. The writing style was impressive, it made me want to climb on top of my soapbox and rant about the whole injustice of it all. Now I will have to try to remain calm and collected in order to deliver a coherent review.
Written in first person narrative from Kyra's point of view, although only 13 she appears mature beyond her years. Probably due to the way in which she has been raised. I admired her strength of character and her bond to her family; especially the bond formed between the women of her family, the way in which they care for each other and protect each other. This aspect was lovely to visualise.
Not only is this a polygamist cult but their preference for paedophilia (marrying young pubescent girls off to old men) literally made my stomach clench. Obviously having 3 girls of my own made this even more sickening to me, I could imagine having to marry my nearly 10 year old off to someone as old as her grandfather, you can bet I would fight tooth and nail against that.
Women are treated like 2nd class citizens, there only to serve the men. They even class children as sinners (WTH). Any resistance is met with severe punishment. Nothing is beyond them in their quest for domination; blackmail, cruelty, coercion, even murder all carried out in the name of 'God'. I was shocked and disgusted at the punishment given to a 1 year old for crying. We are told that the commune was not always like this, there was a greater amount of freedom before the new 'Prophet' (self appointed by means of inheritance) . It has now become a maniacal dictatorship with everyone living in fear of upsetting the 'Prophet'. I will even go as far as to say that the 'Prophet' uses a form of brainwashing in order to control his followers. Constantly repeating and reinforcing that any ideas bar his own are the work of the devil, the only way the followers can be kept safe and able to enter Heaven are by following his rules and staying within the compound.
Kyra has an enquiring mind, which really drew me to her. She can see beyond what they are told and questions the true value of the 'Prophet'. The whole idea of not being able to choose who they love, get any medical help or read anything beside the bible is archaic. As she reads hidden books obtained from a mobile library she confirms within her own mind that this is not how life should be. The very thought of not being able to read my own choice of books makes me shudder, I use reading as an escape and means of relaxing, I would not cope without books. I was horrified at the depiction of the book burning ordered by the 'Prophet'.
I adored the ending with the symbolism of the Russian Olive trees, the feeling of having come full Circle. Also the ideal of hope brings a sense of warmth to the ending making it the start of Kyra's life rather than just an ending.
This book made me think about all the things we take for granted in our society, how much freedom we have. The freedom to choose who we love, the freedom of thought, the freedom to get medical help, the freedom to read, I could go on and on. We take all these things for granted because we have them. Now imagine what life would be like if they were all taken away. This is how this book made me think, powerful and impressive.