Pearl has grown up inside a cult and knows little about the real world.
Pearl experiences her first period at 15; it terrifies her, as she has been told nothing about it. Pearl believes everything she’s told at Seed. She’s mostly happy there as she follows the cult’s leader, Papa S. She yearns to know the identity of her real mother, hoping it’s Elizabeth, who’s now heavily pregnant again. However, all babies belong to the cult, so Pearl has no way to be sure. Although the cult members go to the market in a nearby town to sell their produce, Papa S. has warned them of the dangers of Outside (some quite preposterous). But when Ellis reluctantly joins the cult with his vulnerable mother and younger sister, his frank remarks cause Pearl to wonder, to doubt and finally to contemplate escape. With Pearl’s present-tense narration, Heathfield paints convincing portraits of an extremely naïve girl and of a cult from the inside, weaving in another narrative voice at the end of many chapters—perhaps Pearl’s mother. The cult leader, rather like Jim Jones on a smaller scale, eventually takes all the women for himself and concocts bizarre punishments to keep the members submissive. Pearl’s slow realization of the truth comes across as quite believable.
An absorbing treatment of an ever interesting subject. (Fiction. 12-18)