Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Synopsis: Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.
Huge thank you to Raincoast Canada for this ARC!
I fell deeply in love with Jennifer Mathieu’s first novel The Truth About Alice last year and remembered being completely enamoured by her writing. There’s a raw and rich quality to her work, and she leaves the reader with so much to think about both as the story progresses and when it ends. Colour me excited when Devoted showed up in the mail, because I admit, books on religion are something that always make me a touch nervous.
Devoted is written with honesty, kindness, and raw force. Rachel is the kind of heroine who a reader can connect with because she is someone who is being ripped a part at the seams. We can sympathize with her because she wants to be a devoted Christian woman, but she also has a strong desire to see the world beyond the walls of Calvary Christian, the commune she lives in.
And here’s the thing, the book does a wonderful and respectful job of looking at both of Rachel’s wants. She understands what is right and wrong about the cult she grew up in, she’s sympathetic to the people she once lived with, and yet the other half of her knows that (and through discovering Lauren’s blog) that there’s more to the world outside of it. She wants an education, she wants to have a job, she wants more for her life than simply baring children and being a good helpmeet.
I really adored the characters in this story. Rachel’s family is exceptionally frustrating, but I found myself sympathizing with them at times, particularly Rachel’s sister, Ruth, who seemed the most frazzled by Rachel’s abrupt departure. I also loved Lauren and how she comforts Rachel, and I love her genuine attitude towards helping her get settled into a normal life. I loved the Treats family, especially Diane, who was just so nutty and fun. Mark was a cutie too, and I liked that Mathiu didn’t try to force a romance between he and Rachel, but rather went very subtle about it. This book was more about Rachel’s growth, and Mark has such a sweetness about him that he wants to encourage her transition than spoil it.
So I am two for two with Jennifer Mathieu, and I know that I’ll be reading more of her books as they are published. She knows how to provide such thoughtful reads, and with such a touchy topic like religion, does it with such grace. I encourage everyone to check out Devoted, simply because it’s one of those books that offers a perspective often not considered, and it leaves such a lasting impression. This is a tough read, but it’s the kind that is also so rewarding, that you’ll still be thinking about it well after it’s over.