Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Shuren - OPTIONAL

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Shuren 420 pages. Penguin Publishing, 2019. $15. 

Language: R; (minimal swearing, 5 Fs) Mature Content: R (cults, violence, forced marriage, suggested prostitution, underage sex); Violence: PG 



Miriam and Caleb, both 16, are members of a religious group that live off the grid in the California desert and devout their whole lives to their spiritual leader, Daniel. On the night of their Matrimony Celebration, the boys call out the girl’s name God has given them dreams to marry. Caleb is to call out Miriam, but newcomer, Aaron does first and everything goes wrong. Caleb begins to doubt his leader, Miriam begins to find her own voice, and Aaron and his family may have their own agenda entirely. 

The inner workings of a religious cult that Shuren creates are fascinating and I couldn’t put the book down. Miriam goes from one dimensional to complex and relate-able over the course of the book. The book switches back and forth between Miriam and Caleb and their confused perspectives as they try to work out what is going on. From Miriam’s perspective, all of the women in the book are suppressed and told they are without value and. slowly, slowly as she discovers that isn’t true and that people will try to silence and control things that scare them. As the mystery of  Daniel and what he has been doing behind the backs of his people for years comes out, the question of what will Miriam, Caleb, Aaron and the rest of the community do next and  will they be alright in the outside?

Dina W. - ELA teacher

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