Monday, September 23, 2013

Keep sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene

Alva Jane has spent her whole live in Pineridge, a walled community where she lives with her family and other people who share her faith.  Pineridge is home to people who have chosen to live a proper life according to the scriptures of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) - it is not an easy life, but Alva Jane is content with the knowledge that she lives a pure life and that she will one day be married and start a family.  Like the rest of the families in Pineridge, Alva Jane's family follows the revelations of their prophet, a man named Uncle Kenton.  

Alva Jane's family is tied tightly to that of the Prophet, her daddy took two of Uncle Kenton's sisters as his wives, and when she is disobedient Alva Jane is married to his brutal and controlling brother Wade.  Alva Jane has never questioned her faith and has always tried to keep sweet, but as her eyes truly open to the world around her she finds herself questioning her faith, her beliefs, and the foundations upon which her community are built.

Keep sweet is an eye-opening novel about life in a FLDS compound, where the word of one man has become law over everything else, and people who disobey are punished and banished from the community.  Alva Jane is an obedient child who was raised in the faith and only begins to question her faith and beliefs when it appears that the Prophet is making decisions and taking actions for his own benefit - a difficult idea for anyone to face when they have faith and believe people who speak on behalf of God should be good men.  Uncle Kenton is undoubtedly corrupt and will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Keep sweet is based on eye witness accounts and stories from people who have left the FLDS - a decision that is difficult for them, and is very difficult for Alva Jane.  Greene has managed to portray the horrifying reality of forced marriage, a violent beating, and rape with a sensitivity that portrays the acts without glorifying in the gory details.  It also feels as though Greene manages to maintain a respect for the mainstream Mormon religion, clearly separating the two aspects of the faith and pointing out the extremes rather than ridiculing either faith.  This is the second story I have read recently about the Latter Day Saints, and this is the only book that clearly identifies the religion - Keep sweet also felt like it tackled the topic better than Sister wife but that could be very much described as a personal opinion.

If you are after more books on religious cults or extreme religious groups try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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