Published by Candlewick Press on April 14, 2015
Genres: Realistic, Young Adult
Source: Amazon Vine
Tackling faith, doubt, and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.
Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.
I’ve read quite a few young adult and adult books, fiction and nonfiction, about life in religious cults, so EDEN WEST wasn’t anything new for me. Before I started the book, I thought it would be a fresh take on the subject, especially as it’s written from the perspective of a boy, seventeen-year-old Jacob.
But EDEN WEST was just an average book. There’s a lot of focus on themes and symbols, such as the wolf slaughtering the sheep. There’s a lot of the “cult mainstays,” such as polygamy for the powerful men, teenage wives, living off the land, seeing the outside world as evil, the End Days are coming and only the Grace will be saved, etc.
In the book, Jacob encounters two outsiders who start him on the process of questioning his faith and himself. Lynna lives on the land next to Nodd, and Tobias is brought to Nodd with his mother and sister to be a convert. Jacob has lived in Nodd since he was five, so his reactions to knowledge of the outside world and questioning his beliefs are understandably childlike at times. But I was frustrated when, time and time again, Jacob would resolve to work harder, be more faithful, to ignore temptations.
Now, I understand that’s typical behavior in these types of situations. But it ties into my biggest peeve with EDEN WEST: not a lot happens.The book doesn’t really dig into any of the issues it brings up. Jacob thinks about his life a lot, and by the end of the book, it seems like he may leave Nodd. But will he?
And that’s where the book ends. I’m the type of reader that likes a firm conclusion, so the vague openness of EDEN WEST‘s ending left me disappointed that I bothered to finish the book.
If you haven’t read other cult books before, you might enjoy EDEN WEST. But if you have, I’m not sure you’ll find anything new or extraordinary here. I didn’t.
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