Friday, 17 May 2013

Book: Section 132 by Helga Zeiner

The story follows a 13 year old girl called Martha who is sold into marriage in one of the extremist Mormon compounds practising polygamy, and follows her life as a Mormon wife. It also follows Richard and his company that buys the land next door and seems to get drawn into the abusive world of the Bishop's family.

Before I even start WARNING this book contains distressing descriptions and adult situations. This includes one fairly thorough description of a rape, as well as violence and other sexual scenes. I think that it is especially important to note that the rape scene is involving the 13 year old Martha.

Though I feel that people should be warned about the above issues, I think it is also important to note that they are necessary. The author could not successfully create an extremist Mormon environment without taking into account that young girls are sold into marriage and effectively raped, and that some of the men doing this must enjoy it. What adds to this disturbing image is the fact that even the 'good guy extreme Mormons' (i.e. the ones that don't like Brother Jacob/the Bishop) think about their young wives and what they are required to do, the one instance that jumps to my mind is Brother Lucas and his young twins, who he has threesomes with regularly.

Saying this it did seem at times that I was reading two different books, particularly near the beginning, before Adam became involved in the story and Richard and Brother Jake started interacting. Richard's story, including his ever so blatant love interest and assistant, Daisy, where very real and modern, exactly what you would expect a property developer to be like ultimately, and then you do have the compound, where putting it mildly, things are backwards.

The love stories in the novel, there are two. Both of which I saw coming, though one of them was blazingly obvious from the beginning. The other one I guessed would happen before I got the first 'confirmation' of it, and actually that story kind of gave me the fuzzy happy feeling, which is quite a feat in an otherwise a very depressing novel.

The two 'growth' plot lines that were done, that of Martha and that of Richard, were well done, though I believe that Martha's was much better written (though this could be solely down to the fact that the author has been a teenage girl and so had more of an idea about what she was writing about). I especially liked the way that Martha, and Jake Jnr when he played a bigger role, questioned the religion. There was no straight out 'this is a load of rubbish', it was a slow realisation and questioning, particularly for Martha who started out in the novel as a happy bride.

This was a well written, slightly disturbing, and though provoking book, which I suspect will be on my mind for quite a while. I would say read it, if you feel you can handle the darker aspects of it, especially as it could get quite dark.