By: Elizabeth Fixmer

Publication Date: March 1, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

* I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I have always had a strange fixation with cults and cult-like religions such as the polygamist ex-Mormon sects from Utah. The television show that was popular a few years ago called “Big Love” was a show I watched religiously (pun intended) every week. It was fascinating to me that the women on that show saw nothing wrong with the way they chose to live. Because I have no particular belief system it boggles my mind what some people can be convinced to believe.

Cults have been around for a long time and there are quite a few groups that are active in the United States to this day.

This book may be fiction, but it highlights an issue that is very much a part of the lives of thousands of Americans every day. Children raised in these isolated communities know nothing else. If they are taught to believe in a specific set of principles by their parents, they have no reason to question whether these practices are right or wrong. They quite simply do not know that they have a choice.

In “Down From The Mountain” the story begins with fourteen year old Eva attending church. The culture of fear in which she lives is evident from the very first paragraph.

“I try not to stare at the discipline paddle that hangs on the wall near the bare table we use as an altar. Fourteen swats if I mess up the Bible passage. One swat for every year of age.”

Right away the reader must ask themselves what kind of church has a discipline paddle beside the altar? I know that in Ontario, Canada where I live, it is illegal to hit a child. If a child were “paddled” in church the police would be called and child abuse charges would be laid.

Eva has been taught to believe that God talks to Reverend Ezekiel and “has given him the job of shepherding us to keep us pure.” The Reverend gives out rewards and punishments to keep his followers on “the righteous path.”

Eva and her friends Annie and Jacob live in a closed community surrounded by an electric fence. They belong to a group that call themselves “Righteous Path.” They refer to everyone who is not part of their group as “heathens.” They believe that only 444 people will survive Armageddon and go to Heaven and that they are among the chosen few.

Eva and her mother joined the community when Eva was only four years old. When they joined her mother sold their home and belongings and turned over all the money to Reverend Ezekiel. This is common practice for cults. It keeps the cults coffers full and because the members no longer have money or possessions of their own, they are reliant on the leader for everything.

Eva knows that she must follow all the rules set out by Reverend Ezekiel. These include not showing too much pride, keeping her heart pure, not being selfish, not wearing jewelry, being demure, not speaking to the heathens, etc. Basically she must be pure in thought and deed.

Eva loves school. Even if they only have a few textbooks and most of the information in them has been blacked out to avoid them learning worldly ways, Eva craves knowledge. They used to have a few novels including the first Narnia book, which Eva adored, but Ezekiel burned them all as being inappropriate. He believes that girls only need to learn to read so that they can read the bible.

The problem arises when Ezekiel calls Eva into his office and announces that she is almost a woman. He has already married every woman on the compound and they rotate which of them spends the night in his trailer. Eva is terrified that he will want to marry her too. Thankfully it isn’t marriage that he wants to talk to her about … Yet. He assigns her to make jewelry to sell at a local flea market to the heathens.

When Eva gets a look at what the outside world is really like, she begins to have questions. How can all the nice people she meets be agents of Satan? Is it so bad to come up with ways to make more money for the group? Why is it wrong for her to want to read books? Is the outside world really evil? And most of all, she begins to question whether or not she believes Ezekiel is right about God and heaven.

This book illustrates the brainwashing and the culture of fear that cult children grow up with. I believe that it is important that books like this are written, published and marketed to young adults. They need to know that sometimes evil comes in the guise of a Prophet or Priest. This book will open the eyes of many who read it who were not aware that cults like this exist in our modern society.

I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. It is a quick but dramatic read.

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