Monday, July 25, 2011

I am not Esther by Fleur Beale

I am not Esther by Fleur Beale
Release Date: July 1, 2004
Publisher: Hyperion
Goodreads: 3.71 out of 5
Pages: 258
Buy It: Amazon

Imagine that your mother tells you that she is going away. She is leaving you with relatives whom you have never heard of-and they are members of a strict religious cult. Your name is changed to a biblical one, Esther, and you are forced to follow the severe set of social standards set by the cult. You don't know where you mother is, and you are beginning to lose your own identity.

This was such an emotionally charged read. Kirby is a girl that I feel strongly connected to for many reasons, but let's begin at the beginning. She lives with her mother, Ellen, who is a nurse but despite her position at a hospital she is very irresponsible and Kirby has to take care of the "adult" things around the house such as paying bills, grocery shopping, and cleaning. It has just always been that and Ellen's love seems to make up for it in Kirby's opinion. However, Ellen is very child-like, right down to the fact that Kirby has to make sure that all the money doesn't get blown because Ellen loves to shop. She is sort of a ditz when it comes to being a mother.

Suddenly Kirby is sent away to stay with relatives that Ellen never talked about, in fact she refused to tell her daughter about her childhood so Kirby had no clue that anyone else existed in the family. We soon found out that it is for a good reason! But I won't give away the plot, it is mostly the setting that I wish to discuss.

Kirby's "relatives" end up being the equivalent of cultists, taking theism to an extreme level. The lifestyle that the Pilgrim family live is so beyond frightening to me. They go as far as taking away Kirby's name and giving her a Biblical one, just like everyone else that is in the "Fellowship". They follow the Bible to a literal extent, declaring that men are the only ones that get to make decisions, women do what the men say and everything that they do must be "seemly" meaning that they must wear their skirts down past their ankles, blouses that go all the way up the neck and sleeves that go down past the wrists, their hair must be pleated into a tight braid and then a scarf must be worn over it, so as to not tempt men. The women's duties are to get married, pregnant, and then tend to the children and house; nothing more. Marriage is pre-arranged and picked by a group of Elders at the "Fellowship" church. You can ask for one year to postpone marriage, but that is it, one year. By the way, you are ready to be married at age 16. Glorious. Just like the Lord wants it, right?

There is no television, telephones, newspapers, books, music, nothing. Only the Bible. And say something ungodly or against what the man of the household declares as proper and you will spend the day locked up in a room being forced to study from the Bible with only bread for a meal three times a day. This is used a form of punishment and if that wasn't enough, if you decided that you weren't going to do what you were told, the rest of the family would have to get on their knees and pray for you until you decided that you were going to do as you told. One of the children of the house told Kirby that they once stayed like that for two days. TWO DAYS?! Absolutely insane. The whole entire community of supposed "Christ's children of the faith" are totally, entirely, without a doubt insane and this book creeped me out. To think that people really do live this way!

Upon finishing this book, I began doing research on cults and theism extremists in the United States and I can't say that I am pleased with the results. There are more people out there that live like this than I realized. It is sickening to think that these type of religious crazies actually reside in the same state that I do, no more than an hour from where I live. Of course they will never read this blog because they think that electricity is the devil, but to them I say shame on you for the abuse that you put your children through. It is one thing to practice religion, it is another thing to use it as an excuse to bully your children and get away with it. 

I'm going to stop ranting. It was a great book. It is a must read! You will sigh in relief at the end and at the same time, shutter in disgust. 


Agrippina Legit said...

Excellent review - a very thoughtful response to this book :)

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