The Chosen One

I got this ARC a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been holding onto it because I knew from going to Carol’s reading that it would make me bawl. I had to be ready for that, and busy as I’ve been, I haven’t been ready for it.

Once again tonight, as many nights, I couldn’t sleep. So I took the book to bed with me about midnight, and here it is 4 in the morning and I’ve read the whole thing, and bawled the whole way through. In a good way! It’s a powerful book. But be warned–Kleenex should be handy when navigating this book.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me ‘splain: Carol Lynch Williams’s new book, The Chosen One, is about a 13-year-old girl, Kyra, who lives in a polygamous compound much like any of the ones you’d see driving through southern Utah. The FLDS aren’t the only sect, though they are the most notorious. Living in Utah, you often see reports on the news about women who have escaped these situations, or about the Lost Boys, the boys who are sent out to die in the desert because the girls are for the older men. When Kyra is told that the prophet of their sect has had a revelation that she is to marry (remember, she’s 13!), and marry her own uncle, no less–not is he her father’s brother, but he’s also 50 years older than she is–she has a crisis of faith that leads her to question what she’s been taught all her life about the blind obedience to the prophet’s commands.

I love that Carol made this completely unrelated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–of which you’ll probably remember that I’m a member. People, often people who don’t know a real Mormon, often get the real Mormon church and the wacked-out splinter polygamous groups confused and conflate them. There’s a huge difference (I’ll not get into them, because that’s not what this is about–let’s not go there–I’m just saying that I appreciate, finally, seeing something that addresses the subject that doesn’t conflate the two). I don’t know what it’s like to live in these compounds, so I won’t say it’s “so realistic” or anything as if that means anything–but it rings true to the reports I’ve seen and the books I’ve read.

Most importantly, it rings true to Kira as a character. She’s strong, capable, and learning to become independent. I really rooted for her to win, and felt just as torn as she did about what “winning” would mean–would it mean having to leave her family behind, the only world she’s ever known, loving people who are just trying their best to be good? What is freedom without family beside you? It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff, and it’s oh so good.

Just remember the tissues when you read it.

…And let’s see if I can sleep NOW!