The Unpretentious Reader

Monthly Archive: May 2016

Book review: Devoted

Devoted, by Jennifer Mathieu

Premise

Imagine: You’re a 17-year-old girl whose future has been reduced to being a wife and mother of as many children as you can bear. You live at home and are homeschooled with your multitude of younger siblings, some of whom you – not your parents – are responsible for feeding, teaching, and putting to bed. You have virtually no contact with the outside world, and your sole purpose in life is serving God and doing whatever your father says (your father has all control over your life, since you’re a girl). Welcome to Rachel’s world.

Rachel starts to get curious about life outside her religious cult when, during her very limited time allowed on the computer, she discovers the blog of someone who recently “escaped” the cult and now lives a normal life. As guilty as Rachel feels for reading this, she also begins to wonder what that might be like – to live in control of your own life, your own destiny, and your own body. As things begin to intensify for Rachel at home, she starts to consider the possibility of running away.

Thoughts

Oh my GOSH, you guys, this book. Obviously drawing inspiration from the Duggars, Devoted covers what it’s like to grow up in a very specific cultish religion (Quiverfull – though it’s never mentioned by name in the book, unless I missed it). I am unashamedly fascinated by cults and extreme religions (why I read Under the Banner of Heaven earlier this year), especially when reading stories about people who have escaped said cults. I empathized a lot with Rachel and just wanted to reach through the pages and save her so many times. She’s taught to believe that anything outside of what she knows, of her very strict belief system and family structure, is scary. Wrong. Bad. She’s taught to be ashamed of her body. She learns from an early age that she must submit to the male authorities in her life – first her father, then her future husband. She is given no agency. No authority over her own body, her own self, and her own choices. It’s maddening…and heartbreaking. Little girls are growing up RIGHT NOW in environments just like this. Today.

I also appreciated so much how the author made a conscious choice to not bash all other religions (something she could’ve easily done), while simultaneously talking about the very real and harmful effects of Rachel’s specific religion. She really delved in to Rachel’s thought processes and revealed just how screwed up her environment was, and how it led her to think in a very inflexible, closed-minded way. If Rachel were a real person, she’d be in desperate need for some cognitive behavioral therapy.

Anyways, enough of my rambling. I loved Jennifer Mathieu’s debut novel, The Truth About Alice, and had a feeling I would love this one too. Spoiler: I did! 😉 This was a quick, sobering, and at times emotional read, and if you’re also fascinated by cults/extreme religions, I think you’ll like it, too.