Everyone was buzzing about it when it came out a year ago and on some level I was equally eager to read it. But the difference between everyone (well, most of everyone, as far as I can tell) who was talking about it and myself... most of them have no idea what it's like to actually live in the world portrayed in it. It's no different than reading a historical novel about a place and time they can never visit or a fantasy world. It's frightening but foreign. Thought-provoking but far-away. Shocking but embellished beyond belief.
One of the reviews on Amazon called it exaggerated but it kills me to be the one to say loudly that it is not. Because from the ages of 13-19 I was raised in a Christian group very similar to what's portrayed in Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu. In fact, the group I was raised in was even more strict and patriarchal than Rachel's.
As I've read every page has been difficult. Not only does it bring painful memories rushing back, it also brings back the ludicrous fears that were hammered into me for those years. Things I struggle to talk to my therapist about they're so silly. Sure, my logical, rational mind knows they're foolish fears. But like weeds that refuse to die, the roots and seeds of those fears always find a way to show up when I least want them.
And it's making reading Devoted a very hard thing. Because it makes me want to cry and cry and cry for the girl I was. I see a lot of her in Rachel and (though I'm only about 25% in) Lauren too. Some of what makes it difficult is how it reminds me of people whom I loved and will always have conflicted feelings over. Friends I can't bear to reconnect with. Even my own parents.
Very few people know about that part of my life because it's hard to talk about and if you've read Devoted I'm sure you can imagine why. Much like Lauren, I was a problematic girl. I didn't want to have children and I wanted to have a career. Two things that weren't okay. I got in trouble much like Rachel did with her copy of A Wrinkle in Time but I had found a copy of The Handmaid's Tale and got in trouble for trying to read it in secret.
Eventually, I hope that I won't feel so negative looking back on those formative years. Not feel burdened with decades old shame, fear, and core deep anger. Maybe reading Devoted will help me work through some of those emotions, rub some balm on the emotional scars. Overcome the secret of what it's like to live every day utterly conflicted about the choices I made to get away from the spirit crushing misogyny and zealotry.
I'm not sure I'm going to be able to review it because it hits so very close to home. But we shall see once I get it finished.
Has there been a book that was hard for you to read because it hit too close to home?