On the verge of her arranged marriage, a teenage girl begins questioning the cult she has been raised in.
Hanna will be 18 in less than two weeks, and as is tradition in Clearhaven, she will be wed on her birthday. She is betrothed to her father’s friend Edwin and will be his fifth wife. But as the day approaches, Hanna becomes increasingly uneasy about leaving her disabled younger sister, Emily, as well as her other siblings and sister-mothers, in her abusive father’s care. Hanna also meets Daniel, a boy her own age who has been across The Road and into the city beyond, and during their conversations, Hanna begins to question what kind of future she wants. Hanna’s mother, Kara, encourages her to consider options other than being forced into marriage by offering her more details about her birth, including a story in which Hanna “fell from the sky.” As the day of her wedding approaches, Hanna must decide whether she can protect herself and her family from the future that her father and Edwin have preordained. In his U.S. debut, Meades (For the Love of Mary, 2016, etc.) excels at creating a world both familiar and strange, in which the stories people are told, and the ones they choose to believe, wield great power. The emphasis on faith, the fantastical and mythological, invites the reader to also question what elements of the story are real and which are the collective delusion of a small, removed community—and then to ask whether that would make these experiences any less real. Characters are dynamic, full of complex needs and desires, and the story moves quickly with ever increasing urgency as Hanna’s day of reckoning approaches with exigent dangers from both inside and outside her home.
An engrossing, richly layered novel.