Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass


Rating: WORTHY!

This novel, which I was thrilled to receive as an advance review copy and for which I thank the publisher and author, was very entertaining, despite being told in worst person voice, aka first-person, which is a voice I normally detest. The voice is one of the family patriarch's daughters, a fifteen year old, and it turned out to be a rare case where the author does it well. There are three sisters and three brothers in this strict religious family, under the thumb of the overbearing - some would argue totally psycho - master, aka father, who has written his own addendum to the Bible from which the kids are forced to read each night. Like some deluded Noah, this Dad has convinced his family that they are the only righteous family, perhaps in the world, and that they will all go to Heaven if they follow his teachings. Each sister will become the bride of one of the brothers: Castley will marry Caspar, Delvive will marry one of her triplet siblings named Hannan, and Jerusalem will marry the rather rebellious Mortimer.

Yes dad is sick. So is mom, but in her case it's physical, and she also has deformed legs, because when she fell (or was she pushed?) downstairs, family practice was to avoid doctors and let their god fix broken legs. Predictably, the god failed. Now she can barely move on her own. The kids are hardly any better. At least they can move around freely, and they are forced to attend public school (where they're considered freaks) after an intervention, but other than that, at home they are kept as virtual prisoners - and sometimes literal prisoners. If they misbehave, there is always the drainage ditch with a lockable grill over it, in the woods behind the house. Nearly all of them are intimately familiar with it.

It's predictably Castley who begins to rebel, and the disturbing question becomes: will these kids get out of this alive? Or will they end up 'in Heaven' sooner than they expected? The story is disturbing as we see the children struggle to make sense of life after being thoroughly warped by the very person - their father - whom they ought to be able to trust for guidance and protection.

There are many questions here, not least of which is why the authorities, knowing these kids are at risk having intervened once, do not intervene more. The kids routinely show up at school with bruises and the Cresswell's neighbor (and what's his story? It might surprise you) is keeping a very close eye on them. It beggars belief that things could have become so bad and continued in this way for so long unchecked. It's also a mystery where the kid's names came from given how strict and Biblical this family's patriarch is. Castley? Delvive? Those names are not Biblical! But that aside, Castley's story is moving and worth listening to. She's a smart and strong female character and I enjoyed her story even as it made me cringe and squirm. I recommend this as a worthy read.


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