Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Saturday, 4 July 2015

25248094The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Released: 22nd June 2015
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Genre: YA Contemporary/Mystery
Source: Publisher
Pages: 288
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
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The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, and her ability to trust. And when Minnow rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now the Kevinian Prophet has been murdered and the camp set aflame and it's clear Minnow knows something. But she's not talking. As she adjusts to a life behind bars in juvenile detention, Minnow struggles to make sense of all she has been taught to believe, particularly as she dwells on the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of; if she is willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Powerful and compelling. this remarkable and brave debut novel reveals the terrible dangers of blind faith. And the importance of having faith in yourself.
Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly has the hallmarks of The Maiden Without Hands written by the Grimm Brothers, but stands firm on its own as a harrowing original novel which will stay on your mind long after the last page. All the hype for this book did leave me with some high expectations, but I can definitely say that they were exceeded above and beyond. This is a story of one girl grappling with the painful aftermath of disillusionment with the only twisted world she had ever known - and now trying to move on in the real one. This is a novel that is memorable in a way that no other book has been for me this year because it is so unique, left me agape, and was fearless in its raw storytelling. 

I want to ask, Can you get the death penalty for killing because you're told to? How does the legal system prosecute someone under the influence of faith, someone who kills because God wants a little death sometimes?

This cult mentality and concept of blind faith is definitely a fascinating one to explore in fiction. The last book I read covering those ideas was The Passion Flower Massacre by Nicola Morgan which I found enthralling, but this book had that extra emotional depth which drew me in from the hard-hitting first pages. The story doesn't shy away from brutalities and paints a disturbing picture of what life is like when a society is run by a person who is irrational and corrupt. However, the novel holds more complexities than what may first appear. The use of flashbacks to highlight the stark difference between Minnow's time in the cult and her present situation in a girls' prison was a wise choice so that information was revealed in time, leaving you wanting to keep reading for chapters on end.You know a book is good when you say 'I'll just read one more chapter' and instead keep going until it's almost finished and you can't keep your eyes open any more.

There was always the unspoken certainty that we'd have forever. There would be time for all the things we wanted to do in our lives. That time could run out, that limbs could disappear from bodies, was as unfathomable as death. 

The prose in itself is a masterpiece - striking the perfect balance between necessary pragmatism and a subtle creative flair to produce a story that I couldn't put down. The twists which came in bursts along the way just kept the wow factor throughout. The character relationships are similarly well crafted, from the dynamics of Minnow's family to the ins and outs of prison life. Exploring the avenue of 'a disturbed protagonist without hands in a jail setting' is definitely something I haven't ever come across before, so this book was intriguing on both counts. Amidst trust issues and inner turmoil over her own drastic actions, Minnow herself was a character who had so many layers, and underwent her own catharsis to come to terms with the past, and look forward to a different future.

We stepped headlong into a new place where we knew there was something other than good daughters and sons inside us. Because for the first time, somebody bothered to tell me why they were in pain. Everybody around me was in pain, I realize now, but none of them ever poured it out of themselves into another person.


It's official: I love this chilling, shocking and undeniably mesmerising book. When it comes to 2015 releases that you HAVE TO READ - this is definitely one of them. Stephanie Oakes is an author whose other works I'll definitely be looking out for in the future, because this is a book which I can't praise highly enough.


  1. Riiiiiiiiight how good is it??? I absolutely LOVED Minnow Bly, and funnily enough, the hype didn't put me off at all. And I still think it should deserve MORE attention than it's been getting, because I've mostly been seeing Aussie reviews of it.

    Now I feel like reading more cult books :P

    1. YES. I know what you mean about it not getting *enough* recognition - you're right, it has gotten a lot of Aussie attention but I haven't seen too many from other bloggers.
      If you're looking for other cult books, The Passion Flower Massacre by Nicola Morgan is a good place to start :)

  2. I think I am possibly THE ONLY person who didn't love this book. I agree that it was interesting and unique, but those two things alone were not enough to inspire love for this book. I wasn't a huge fan of Minnow, and I thought that some of her actions and attitudes were really unforeseen and unexplained - to an extent that i couldn't understand them, or go along with them.

    I'm really glad you liked this one, though! :D

    Lovely review as always, Eugenia <3

    1. Everyone is bound to have differing opinions on a book Chiara, and I can see how some of Minnow's behaviour was quite erratic at times. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  3. I just purchased this one because of all the rave reviews. I can't wait to read it!


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