Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

In thirteen-year-old Kyra’s world, a man must have three wives in order to go to heaven. In Kyra’s world, she’s got two mothers besides her own, twenty brothers and sisters, and more on the way. In Kyra’s world, modern medicine is forbidden, books are burned, and people like her fifteen-year-old sister Emily, with mental disabilities are seen as God’s pariahs.

But Kyra doesn’t question any of it. Or at least she wouldn’t, if not for her hidden passions: the boy she’s secretly fallen in love with and hopes to marry and the Mobile Library on Wheels she sneaks off to. The bookmobile opens her eyes to two worlds: the realm of fiction, by which she’s getting more enamored by the book; and a world depicted in the newspapers she reads, where there are doctors who could help her mother through her risky pregnancy.

And then Kyra’s whole world is shaken when she finds out she’s been Chosen to be her uncle’s seventh wife. Armed with the knowledge she knows of life within and outside her commune, Kyra has four weeks until the wedding has been set in order to make the single riskiest decision of her life.

I immediately identify with any book where the main character is forbidden to read and yet finds a way to do just that, and falls in love with it even when she knows she shouldn’t because it’ll only land her trouble. There’s just something so powerful and heartbreaking in that trope that does me in every time, and if nothing else, in this book, where everything seems foreign, it was that element--that love for reading--presented in the very beginning that I used as a crutch going into Kyra’s world.

You know, thinking about it now, I think that is the root of my fascination with books set in repressive atmospheres--that emotions and desires most view as basic are considered a crime to the residents therein. I can’t imagine a place like that, but it exists nevertheless, and the struggle to liberty is a journey I’m always willing to embark on.

So imagine the situation here: Kyra’s thirteen and is told she has to marry her ancient uncle, an act that even she knows is incest. She’s mature from being her mother’s firstborn and having to look after her younger siblings, but even the maturity acquired in the place she lives doesn’t save her from falling into the trap of hoping she’ll get to marry the boy with whom she’s in love. Her father tries to reason with their leader, but to no avail. As the wedding draws nearer, it becomes clear just how corrupt the values she’s been told to hold holy are (and this is a spoiler, so I won’t specify), but what’s the alternative? Run away and expose everyone? Lose her beloved family?

The story is written sparsely enough to create a space for the reader to step in, and leaves off in an open-ended manner that might not resonate with some. Even so, The Chosen One is ambitious and nothing short of gorgeous. B

St. Martin's | 200 pages | May 12th, 2009 | Publisher page | Facebook fan page | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

21 comments:

Amee said...

Sounds interesting. Not something I'd usually pick up, but maybe!

Iryna said...

Wow! As usual a great review, Steph!

I absolutely adore the cover with the loose braid and everything. Do you think it might symbolize the main character's life falling apart like the braid is slowly unraveling? Or am I looking too far into things?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Scary thing is that there's really cults & sects that exist like the one described in the book. It's a world we cannot imagine.

I asked my publisher to contact you regarding a review of my next book, so hopefully they have done so!

L. Diane Wolfe
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
www.spunkonastick.net
www.thecircleoffriends.net

Steph said...

Iryna, I think that's an absolutely valid interpretation. Kyra's hair is really long, and she often wears it in braids, which is why it's that particular hairdo that is depicted. As to why it's unraveling, that's anyone's guess, but I think you may be on to something!

Taren said...

I love these kinds of books like you wouldn't believe, so I'm really excited about reading this one. There's a fairly famous cult in the county next to mine and a group that's recently moved into town, so stuff like this just fascinates me. Also, put this on your list of dvds to get: all three seasons of Big Love.

Abby said...

Yup, I really liked it, too!

Becky said...

I loved this one and for many of the same reasons you mentioned.

Sarah said...

When you originally posted about being excited for this title, I had my library order it, so I hope it comes in soon.

bermudaonion said...

I'm adding this one to my wish list.

Reader Rabbit said...

Sounds awesome, I'm going to have to get the library to order it for me!

kbaccellia said...

The premise of this story fascinates me especially since I lived in Utah and it's a well known fact that polygamists live there.

Melanie said...

This book looks really interesting! I hope to be able to pick it up soon. Great review!

Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

Awesome review! I've never read a book with this sort of plot before, sounds interesting!

-Amber

Khy said...

I hate seeing all the glowing reviews of this book, because I haven't been able to get the darn book yet. ARGH.

(ilonga) said...

I had added this one to my amazon wish list. Looks interesting and different from the kind of books that I had been reading lately :)

It´s a difficult theme though because not everyone have the same vision, you know? The people who lives in those communities is because they believe in that, at least almost everyone. It´s interesting the fact that the main character wants something more because she learn of "the other world" by books and news papers, ans stuff... but what if, if she never read those things? probably she wouldn´t object in marrying her uncle, she wouldn´t see it as a bad thing...

So what I´m trying to say is that I´m want to read this book because I´m really curious about how the author describe the community. If it is in a subjective way, or objective.

Steph said...

This comment marks the cutoff for those who hadn't read this yet and commented on this review. While people who come after this comment are not instant winners, there are still plenty of copies being given away here. :)

~THE OPTIMISTIC PESSIMIST ~ said...

sounds like a great read. I love Big love... Interesting to see it from her point of view..

dissectingperfection said...

I think I've commented on the review everywhere but here... I just really want to read this book. I agree with (ilonga)'s comment above - it's a difficult situation, and it's not really limited to the group discussed in the book. This is an issue affecting a lot of people in a lot of different religions/sects all over the world, and it's obviously a lot more favorable towards the men than the women involved.

I'm going to spare my strong opinions on the matter until I've read this. But great review =D

Ashley said...

Oh my gosh I really want to read this book!!

Lost In Lit said...

I definitely have to get this book soon. It sounds incredible.

the wanderer said...

this looks pretty good, definitely something i'd like to read!

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