Book Review: The Followers, by Rebecca Wait

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

The Followers starts in the "after": Judith is entering a prison to visit her mother, Stephanie, imprisoned for as-yet unknown reasons. Rebecca Wait (The View on the Way Down) then moves skillfully through time to reveal their life "before." The mother works as a waitress to support herself and her young daughter; Stephanie meets Nathaniel, a charming man who takes an interest in her difficulties. Mother and daughter move in with Nathaniel and his "followers" in order to pursue a new life with a new sense of purpose.
After their move to the Ark, as Nathaniel's small group of followers call it, Wait deftly explores cult thinking and group psychology. Even more captivating than Stephanie's acceptance of the rules of Nathaniel's cult, however, is Judith's 12-year-old determination not to do just that: "What she was discovering was that it was harder to hold on to all your normal thoughts when everyone around you believed something different. You started to doubt yourself."

This doubt, planted in Judith during her time at the Ark, is pervasive throughout the "after" of her experiences there. And therein lies Wait's greatest success in The Followers: embedded within the imagined story of one particular religious cult, which is in and of itself more than sufficient as a novel, lurks another story. It is one about individuality and selfhood, about responsibility and what it means to be strong--even long after the test of one's strength appears to have passed. 


tl;dr: Rebecca Wait's novel captivates from the very beginning, unfolding the story of a religious cult and one young girl's strength in resisting its pull.


The Followers, by Rebecca Wait | July 2017 | Europa Editions | Buy from an independent near you

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