Published by Running Press Book Publishers on 3/10/15
Genres: Physical & Emotional Abuse, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
My content rating: Mature YA (Mature themes like physical and sexual abuse; Some violence)
All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.
At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S’s companion. She feels excitement... and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community — particularly the teenage son, Ellis — only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant.
Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.
Seed is a compelling story of strength in horrible circumstances.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of cults, I have to admit. It amazes me the things that people are willing to believe when a charismatic leader tells them it’s so. And it’s also incredibly interesting what types of things we will accept simply because we are raised in a society where those things are accepted.
In this book, the main character, Pearl, has been raised in a cult. She has been raised to believe that Nature speaks to Papa S (their cult leader) and tells him the right way for them to live. Nature dictates their rules, and decides when someone is to be punished for breaking them (or for thinking about breaking them!). Of course, the situation is very mentally (and sometimes physically abusive). Pearl also looks forward to the day that she will be a companion to Papa S, not really understanding everything that that means.
What I loved:
- The concept. Like I said, this concept fascinates me, so I’m already halfway to loving the book right there. I loved that the book was told from Pearl’s POV and that Pearl is actually completely convinced that their way of life is good and right. She doesn’t have a lot of doubts, especially at the beginning of the book, so we get to see the world through the eyes of someone who truly believes, which made for a unique and interesting perspective. Pearl was a bit naive and trusting, but you could understand this based on her upbringing. It was really interesting to see her slowly (very slowly) start to realize that everything in her little community was not as it should be.
- Kate, Jack and Ellis. The secondary characters in this book were just as interesting as Pearl. In fact, I kind of wished that we’d had the POV of at least one of these other characters to go along with Pearl’s in the book! Kate is a bit of a rebel by the cult’s standards. She has had her eyes opened to the fact that everything is not right with their group, especially since she became a woman and started having to “help” the men of the cult. It was interesting to see Kate rebel against certain aspects of the cult, even while still believing in others – which made sense, since she’d been raised her whole life to believe those things. I loved the pure friendship between Jack and Pearl – he was a sweet kid who hadn’t been tainted by the cult’s thinking yet – though, like Pearl, he did believe most of what they’d been taught was true. Then there was Ellis – Ellis came to the cult as a teenager and he felt very conflicted about the things that he saw. On the one hand, he saw that his mother was happy for the first time in a very long time and he loved her and wanted her to have some rest from her burdens. But, the more that he learned about the cult, of course, the more he realized that this was not a solution for his family.
- Mystery woman. We actually did get the POV of a mystery woman, who we quickly learn is being held at the cult against her will. She gave us a much different view of the cult – we saw its truly violent and ugly side through her.
- Sexual naivete. I had a little bit of a hard time understanding how Pearl was so completely naive when it came to sex. First of all, it struck me as odd that she didn’t get her period until she was fifteen years old and had, apparently, never had a sexual feeling or thought before. I understand completely her not understanding sex itself, but it seemed odd that she was such a late bloomer.
- More perspectives. Like I said, I wished that we had gotten the POV of one of the characters who had more doubts about the colony earlier on. I would have liked to see their thought processes a bit more – especially Ellis. He stated that he was happy to be at the cult because his mother was happy, but it was a bit hard to understand how he could accept any of it, and it would have helped to see his thoughts and feelings when he came to them. While I connected with Pearl, I wasn’t as affected by the events at the end of the book as I could have been because I guess I didn’t feel completely connected to all of the characters.
This book truly makes you think about our belief systems and how they can be twisted, but there is also a message of hope for reason and compassion to win out over indoctrination in the end. I thought that this was a really strong debut for Heathfield. At the beginning of the book, there’s a note that says that this is going to be part of a two book series, and I’m definitely interested to see where the author goes from here. Overall, I give this book 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Lisa Heathfield is a former secondary school English teacher, specializing in working with hearing-impaired children. Seed is her debut novel. She lives in Brighton, England, with her husband and three children.