My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.Our heroine, Mary, has a dream. A dream to leave the safety of her village and find this ever-mysterious ocean her mother romanticized through stories. Mary has always been taught that her village is all there is. Well, all that remains of pure humanity at the very least. Her village is surrounded by a forest--the forest of hands and teeth. Outside the fences and walls of her village, the Unconsecrated roam. Zombies. They're an ever-present threat, but as long as the fences hold. As long as the guardians protect the borders from breaches, then life goes on normally. They're raised to respect the Sisterhood, respect the Guardians, respect the rules of society. And one of the rules is that all young people should make the commitment to family and marriage. All eligible young men and all eligible young women should go through the strict rituals and vows and settle down, start families of their own. Mary has always assumed that her life will follow this course. But after several years of being passed over, she fears that she may have to join the Sisterhood and dedicate her life to God. The idea doesn't thrill her--or the Sisters.
On the day when a young man, Harry, does ask to court her--and courtship almost always leads to marriage--the siren interrupts her response. A breach. The zombies. The two rush to safety. But in a way, it's too late, Mary's life is forever changed. Her mother, Mary's mother, has been bitten by the Unconsecrated. The decision remains...kill her now out of mercy, or let the disease overcome her and release her into the Forest. Her mother's choice? To join her husband who is among the Unconsecrated. Days later--after her mother's release into the Forest--her brother returns angry and vindictive. Jed. He kicks Mary out of his home. Forces her to join the Sisterhood. Harry, it seems, has not gone to her brother. He has seemingly withdrawn his interest to court her, to marry her. While she did not love Harry, she did have a long friendship with him, with his family--his brother, Travis, and his sister, Beth.
But now...now she's being forced into the Sisterhood...forced to dedicate herself to a God she can't believe in. How could God have allowed both her father and mother to have become Unconsecrated? How could God have allowed her brother to turn his back on her? How could God have allowed her sister-in-law, Beth, to miscarry? In just a few days, her life have become a mess, a disaster. It soon becomes apparent--within minutes really--that the Sisterhood is not what she thought. They are more than what they seem. That there are dangerous secrets. That the Sisterhood poses a threat to her very life.
What's a girl to do when there are no choices that can lead to a happy ending?
How could I ever do justice to this book? Seriously. It's so intense. It's so exciting. Full of danger and secrets and betrayals and hopes and fears and love and loss. It's incredibly fast-paced, near-impossible to put down. It's dark and dangerous--not light and cheery. But it's so compelling, so well-written, that I just have to sing its praises.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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