Title: Down from the Mountain
Author: Elizabeth Fixmer
Release date: March 1st, 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company
Genres: young adult, realistic fiction
Rating: ★★★★ – 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Eva just wants to be a good disciple of the Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she and her mother are among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekiel, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder–a purpose she’ll serve until she becomes one of Ezekiel’s wives. But a college student named Trevor and the other “heathens” she meets on her trips beyond the compound are different from what she’s been led to believe. Now Eva doesn’t know which is more dangerous–the outside world or Brother Ezekiel’s plans.
I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley, which in no way influences my opinion.
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When I read the premise of this book on Netgalley, I requested it immediately. I don’t really know why, but the idea of a religious cult fascinates me. I can’t ever wrap my head around the fact that people join the cult and believe the leader is their prophet. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it is so far removed from my reality. Whatever the reason may be, it fascinates me. So I thought this book would be perfect for that!
Down from the Mountain was definitely different than I expected it to be -which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I feel like it took a while for the story to get to the stockpiling weapons-point mentioned in the premise. And because I’d already read about it in the synopsis that made the story seem a bit slower to me. But honestly, that’s kind of a minor dislike to me, I really enjoyed this book.
First, let’s talk about the plot. Like I said, in the beginning it’s a bit slower but that did give me the time to get to know all the characters and immerse myself in the story. Once the story does reach the previously mentioned point, all hell breaks loose -no pun intended- and things go downhill VERY quickly. So the last part of the story was very fast-paced. I really enjoyed the journey we go on with these characters because even though it is told through Eva’s eyes, you learn a lot about the side characters as well.
On to the characters! First, there’s the main character Eva. Eva has been a member of the Righteous Path since she was 5 so it’s practically what she was raised on. Because of that, she is very devoted to Ezekiel and truly believes that the rest of the world are heathens that won’t go to heaven when they die. She was brought into the cult by her mother who is also a member. But, in the religious group, mothers can’t show a preference for their own child because every elder woman is a mother to every child -I don’t know whether that explanation made sense to you, sorry. Eva however, has always had a special bond with Mother Martha -her actual mom. That was kind of a confusing aspect for me, that every adult woman has Mother in front of their name -which one is the real mom??
Eva is quite a likeable character -to me. Although she is devoted, she has these thoughts going through her mind that make her doubt Ezekiel. But since it’s the only thing she has ever learned, she pushes them away and tries to be more obedient. I read a certain sentence in this book and highlighted it immediately because it’s something I needed to share in my review. So here it goes, this is what Eva needed to learn after she dared to ask reverend Ezekiel a question:
I need to learn to be more feminine: silent, speaking only when spoken to, obedient and patient.
That right there, will tell you everything you need to know about Ezekiel. That is what he is teaching this girl. It makes me sick to think that there are thousands of cults like this one in the world. As you can deduce from the quote above, Eva has some issues with blind obedience -as she should. She asks questions -which apparently, you can’t- is curious and wants to learn. All things that are apparently not supported by the Righteous Path. I loved to see Eva’s journey: how her doubts got stronger, especially when she got to go outside of the compound and see the way most of us actually love.
Another aspect I liked was to see how the different characters reacted to the changes in the Righteous Path and Ezekiel. He would grow more arrogant and mean and they would fast more often -because they didn’t have any money for food. But according to Ezekiel it’s just God punishing them for their sins and if they would just pray a little harder, they’d have food coming their way again. Some characters grew closer to Ezekiel and admired them more, while others like Eva had growing doubts. I especially liked to see the changes in Annie, Jacob and Rachel. Annie and Jacob are the other two children of the cult closest to Eva’s age and her friends. Mother Rachel is the youngest adult woman and Ezekiel’s most recent wife. They all had very different reactions to the changes.
To be honest, aside from the abuse and so on, what disgusted me the most was that Ezekiel -who must be like 60- married all of the adult women, took them as his wives. And every night he would choose one to spend the night with. And one day, Eva will become his wife as well -she’s only fourteen! THAT IS DISGUSTING. And don’t even get me started on the abuse. I have another quote to show that one -it’s a flashback to when Eva was about 5 years old:
“Now you will obey me and give me that necklace,” Ezekiel demanded. He paddled me hard until I gave it to him. That’s when I wet myself in front of everybody. I could cry all over again thinking about it. It was a powerful lesson, one that I needed to learn – that God comes before any material possessions.
HELLO. What the hell? How could any mother just sit there and watch a guy hit her child? I do not understand. And it’s not just physical abuse but emotional as well. The only aspect I didn’t like as much about the novel was that the friendship with Trevor felt a bit rushed.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book. As you can see from my review, I was very invested in the story! It just seems so real: both the characters and the plot line. I was surprised to see -in the author’s note I believe- that the author has actually worked with (ex-)cult members before. I think that’s why it seems so real to me.
Go ahead and give this one a try! It’s such a quick but fascinating read!