Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly – powerful, raw, realistic

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Publication date: June 9th, 2015 by Dial Books
Genres: Contemporary | Mystery | Young Adult
Pages: 400
Links to: Amazon | Goodreads

A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow:
twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting 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’s willing to part with the terrible
secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us , as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.


“I am a blood-soaked girl.”

It’s difficult not to feel a little sadness when it comes to this book. From the first line (the one quoted above), I was already guessing it was going to be that way. It’s very simple, really, what the book is about, but that does not mean the book is weak.

Simply put, it’s about uncovering the mystery of the death of the Prophet of a certain Comunity of religious people, and finding out who or what caused the fire that destroyed said Comunity on the same night. See? Nothing particularly complex, yet the book was so powerful…

So powerful because in the process of uncovering that mystery, we also learn about the difficult life Minnow had previous to going to a Juvenile Detention Center, and in the meanwhile, several questions about faith and life are addressed.

“Growing up, I believed in miracles. I guess I don’t anymore”.

Minnow herself was the first striking thing in the book. She was such a strong protagonist. Her voice was fantastic as well – sincere, and without fear of telling the gruesome details. I found her process of stopping believing the things in her religion realistic, mainly because her case was very similar to mine: Raised in a religion, believing everything in it, and then all that faith slowly fading away, leaving the person very confused. She explains it better with a quote:

“You don’t change everything you believe all at once.”

But not only was Minnow the only fantastic character. All of them were great. The girls from the Juvie are all complex, and reading about this particular group shows you not to judge them prematurely, the guards and the teachers are great too, and the officer who helped Minnow remember all the things (or rather help her get over them so she can accept them and tell them and thus solve the mystery) – Dr. Wilson – was intriguing and with layers that hide what he really is inside.

Before this book, I hadn’t read one about cults, and for a first, I think TSLOMB was really good. The events in it were raw and painful at times, but I thought they showed perfectly well the life Minnow led in the Comunity. Also, as the synopsis of the book says, it shows the dangers of blind faith, because not necessarily the fact that a person claims him/herself a Prophet means they’re speaking the truth.

“Anybody is capable of enormous harm, anyone with a mouth or a hand to write with.”

And even when the mystery wasn’t the most important thing about the novel, it was good. Better than I expected, in fact. How many times have I complained about predictable mysteries? Well, this one left me open-mouthed. I couldn’t guess it at all. I was sure I had gotten the answer, but my guess was wrong. I am actually very glad about that, because how disappointing would the book be if everything but the mystery was well done?

When the book was over, I was left wanting to read more about the life of Minnow and how it turned out after the events of the book, but I am content with what I got – the finale was satisfactory, and not full of unanswered questions.

“Lies have a way of turning poisonous over time.”

TSLOMB is one of those few books I would give everything to be sure that everyone is going to read it. That is because in my opinion it’s important, and it shows us sides of humanity not usually brought to books. And aside from that, it’s a good book from a more “technical” view (great characterizarion and writing, etc.). Very worth reading.


5 stars



10 thoughts on “Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly – powerful, raw, realistic

  1. Brilliant review. I’ve got this one on my iPad, and have been meaning to get around to it! When I’m in the mood for something dark but well-written, this will definitely be option #1. And there’s just something so fascinating about cults.


  2. I have this book just waiting for me to pick up on my shelf! It seems so great and this review just makes me want to pick it up RIGHT NOW. I love a great main character and I want to read a mystery I can’t quite figure out! Wonderful review!


  3. I was just looking at this book today and thinking about starting it. Your review makes me want to get on that even quicker! I started a different book instead to continue a series, but this book should be a sure thing after I am done with that one. Great review!


  4. Honestly, this was one of the best books I read in 2015. Not only was it real, and touching, and gritty, but the author actually took a chance, and made the book more about the story, not the wish fulfillment or the typical formula to sell the story. The story with Angel, and why she was in jail, caused a huge moral debate in my head. How can we punish and incarcerate women and young girls who have to take such measures to protect themselves? What do you do when the very law that punishes you leaves you with so few options? And then when Angel really shows her true side shine through…..this book was nothing less than brilliant.


    • Exactly. Angel’s story made my head spin, because it’s true she didn’t do something… legal, but why she did it… Honestly, Angel was one of the best characters. Truly well-developed and some of her sides were relatable. Hell, I think all the characters were excellently done.


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