A Painful and Beautiful Story of Identity and Hope | Review of ‘The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly’


By: Cynthia Ayala

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Dial/Penguin

Stephanie Oakes’s debut novel The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a tale loosely based on the Grimm Fairy Tale The Handless Maiden. Published June 9, 2015 by Dial/Penguin, the novel follows one Minnow Bly, as she escapes from the cult her family dragged her to only to be thrown into a murder investigation of the man who took her hands: the so-called Prophet of the religious commune.

This is, by no means, an easy novel to read. But that is not due to the style of writing, it has to do with the very story itself, It is a brutal, unwavering, heart and gut wrenching story about this young girl who loses her hands, her family, her identity, everything. Nevertheless, it was all of that that made it such an impactful story to behold. The detail and imagery of the novel are images that will embed themselves into the mind of the reader, making them unforgettable for months and even years. Images like the brutality, when Minnow loses her hands for instance. The detail that went into that is heartbreakingly real to the point where the readers will feel the pain.

The novel follows Minnow Bly as it is told through a first person perspective. Her perspective is broken, but cohesive at the same time. Broken due to her character and the hardships she suffered. It’s dark, sad, gritty and harsh and paints her reality, her world in such a dark light. Going through the motions alongside Minnow, the audience really is submerged into this cold dark world of Minnow Bly. Oakes makes quite an impressive debut with this novel not only because of the story but also by her ability to tell it through the eyes of Minnow. Her detail is extraordinary, it is lively and the structure, the word choice and imagery that goes alongside it. It is soulful, thoughtful and beautiful while at the same time being so painful. Minnow is just a scared girl who has lost so much in her life and the writing captures that with such an amazing ability.

From the first line “I’m a blood soaked girl”, readers are drawn into the story. Lines such as that, simple phrases that pack a punch, fill the confines of this text. On every page the narrator, Minnow captivates the reader in her ability to translate her emotions, her thoughts, off the pages. There is such a poetic and passionate essence that the writer has attached to this manuscript and all aspiring writers should read this novel if only for the texture of the writing.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is an amazing novel that will touch the readers and grab them by their emotional heartstrings. This novel will make any readers heart and body hurt, as they become the narrator, as they travel alongside her as she searches for her identity and her lost hope in the world. This is a novel about right versus wrong, belief, and the strength to overcome adversity and cruelty. Everyone should read this novel. (★★★★☆ | B+)

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