Saturday, February 20, 2021

Out of Heaven's Grasp by V.J. Chambers


OUT OF HEAVEN'S GRASP is so good. It's a contemporary new adult thriller about an FLDS-inspired cult called the people of Life. Narrated in first person with dual POVs, our two protagonists are Jesse and Abigail, two teenagers living in the compound. When they're caught holding hands, Jesse is kicked out forever and Abigail is married off as the fourth wife to one of the Elders in the community, which is where their stories diverge and become incredibly interesting.

Abigail is treated poorly by her husband and some of the other lives and, torn from her loving family and treated like an interloper in her new one, she begins to question the "doctrines" she's been parroting her whole life. Jesse, on the other hand, becomes wildly out of control and his life begins to fall apart in the absence of order as he learns about everything he missed out on in his isolated community while swinging from one dead-end job to the next and experimenting with drugs.

This is a very dark story but I think it was handled incredibly well. Even the bad guys have nuances and layers, and the "good" guys, including Abigail and Jesse, feel like very flawed individuals-- to the point where it isn't always easy to like them or understand their choices. I'm not really sure I would call this book a romance, despite the connection between Jesse and Abigail, because so much of the focus is on their stories and the way the cult controls all aspects of their life, including ones that aren't immediately obvious.

I actually recommend reading the afterword because Chambers talks about some of her sources for inspiration and also about her own experience growing up in an extremist fringe religion. I ended up reading the whole thing because it was so interesting. I could tell the author really did her research because everything felt so convincing and realistic, but knowing that the author had a personal stake in it made it feel even more precious. I definitely recommend OUT OF HEAVEN'S GRASP to anyone who likes stories about cults or dark new adult books that veer away from the usual tropes.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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