Monday, December 3, 2012

I Am Not Esther, by Fleur Beale

Kirby is more of a parent to her mother than the other way around, despite the fact that she is just a child.  So when her mother decides to send Kirby away to live with her religious extended family, Kirby is mystified   She knows nothing of this family, other than her mother's estrangement.  When Kirby arrives at the fundamentalist family's home, they rename her Esther, and send her into a spiraling identity crisis.  Attempting to make her conform to their strict rules and ways, Kirby fights them, and attempts to open their eyes to the larger world out there.

While this book is aimed at young adult readers, as an adult reader I still found the book to be pretty engaging.  Kirby/Esther is an incredibly complex character.  Her identity struggle is not limited to her time with her religious family; on the contrary, her identity is the parental figure in her relationship with her mother has stunted her development from the start.  When her uncle forces the persona of Esther upon her, that merely intensifies her struggle.

The book reminded me of fundamentalist cult-like sects who have gained notoriety in the past few years.  It makes one wonder what it is like to be born and raised with an environment like that as their reality.  I like the fact that the story focuses on Kirby rebelling against it because she knows there is more to life than this one religion.  I also like the fact that she turns out to not be the only rebel.  While the story takes some sad turns, I am glad the end of the book takes time to further explore Kirby's relationship with her mother.

The book is certainly appropriate for young adult readers, but makes for an interesting, albeit fast, read for adults as well.

This book is from my personal library, all opinions are honest and original.


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