After The Fire by Will Hill
(Amazing cover – #ThatCover)
Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.
Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She’s starting to see the lies behind Father John’s words. She wants him to be found out.
What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?
*The novel is also part of the #ZoellaBookClub for YA readers.
I first heard of this novel, via a Twitter recommendation of one of my favourite writers. She is even quoted on the cover, so I knew I was in for a treat! After The Fire, I believe is labelled in the YA genre. But if there was one word that appeared time and time again in my notes, it was the word powerful. This is without a doubt, an incredibly powerful YA novel, not to be missed my readers of other genres.
The synopsis leads us to believe this is a hippy commune, cult or religious organisation of some kind. With a young member, Moonbeam growing slowly aware, things are not as they seem. With the event of a fire, everyone’s lives phenomenally change.
What if the only way out of the darkness, is to light a fire
The prologue opens in the midst of the fire, with surrounding police/fire personnel attempting to resolve the fire and assist the fleeing victims. But again, things are not as they seem……….
The novel is split into alternative chapters, which detail before/after the event. They are part of Moonbeam’s therapy. As she attempts to explain where she comes from and what led to the event. Moonbeam is the main protagonist, as she relays her story to psychiatrist Dr Robert Hernandez and later on FBI agent Andrew Carlyle.
What follows is an incredibly emotive narrative, that was so moving, it blurred the edges of fiction almost in to an autobiographical feel to the writing.
Huge respect to the author for this beautiful writing!
Moonbeam belongs to the Holy Church of the Lords Legion. Father John is the prophet and therefore the mouthpiece of god himself. But the lifestyle he offers his followers is far from Christian, in any way shape or form. Father John sets the rules, punishments and is the only member of the Legion that is allowed to pro-create, so that all the children must be descendants of his directly.
Father John is the stuff of nightmares!
There are strict rules on music, TV, books and heresy is absolutely forbidden. The children are trained in combat and are no longer educated in anything outside of bible study. With explicit rules such as
“you never talk to outsiders, not under any circumstances”
Despite Moonbeam residing in the safety of the Municipal George W Bush Hospital, she is reluctant to talk. Father John’s voice echoes in her head and you really get a sense of the fear and tyranny she has been living under. This novel really got me thinking about how cults work and how professionals ‘unlock’ the minds of those so young and so systematically brainwashed? There is a parallel to the Waco siege or the rumoured grip of scientology.
But what makes this novel so powerful is Moonbeam’s voice, her internal thoughts and the impact this Legion has had on her life.
The order of this society is obeying, fear, trauma and discipline. It makes for haunting reading! I would highly recommend this novel and especially so, to book groups. There are so many themes, characters and issues that would generate debate.