By Rebecca Wait
Published by Picador (21 May 2015)
Judith has been visiting her mother, Stephanie, in prison once a month for the last eight years. Nearly a hundred stilted half hours - hundreds of failed conversations, hundreds of topics avoided. Neither of them can bring themselves to talk about what brought them here - or about Nathaniel . . .
When Stephanie first meets him, she is a struggling single mother and Nathaniel is a charismatic outsider, unlike anyone she's ever known. In deciding to join the small religious cult he has founded high on the moors, Stephanie thinks she is doing the best for her daughter: a new home, a new life, a new purpose.
Judith has never trusted Nathaniel, but even she can't foresee the terrible things that lie ahead. From the moment they arrive, the delicate dynamic of Nathaniel's followers is disturbed. Judith's restlessness and questions unsettle the children who've never known life outside the cult - all except loyal Moses, who will do anything to be her friend. Meanwhile, as Stephanie slowly surrenders herself to Nathaniel's will, tensions deepen, faith and doubt collide, and a horrifying act of violence changes everything. In the shattering aftermath, no one seems safe, and for Judith and Moses the biggest leap of faith is still to come...
As soon as I heard about The Followers, I was desperate to read it. Religious cults are a fascinating topic and I'm a big fan of the TV series The Following.
When struggling single mum Stephanie meets Nathaniel, she is sucked deep into his world, along with her 12-year-old daughter Judith. Moving into his small village in the Yorkshire moorlands, little did any of them know that life will never be the same again.
The Followers grabbed my attention from the first page, as 22-year-old Judith visits her mother in prison, one of many similar visits over the years. As the story then flips back to the past (10 years ago), it slowly unravels the events leading up to the present day.
The Followers made me gasp, cry and hold my breath several times. I loved all of the characters, as they felt so authentic and passionate about what they believed in, with a vulnerability that made them all easy to control. I couldn't help but feel great empathy for Judith, whose world was turned upside down by her mother's irresponsible and rash decision to move in with a man she hardly knew.
I read the book in two short sittings, ignoring the household and unable to stop reading until I reached the final page. It's a sad, creepy, and horrifying story, in a chilling atmospheric setting - so well plotted that it flows seamlessly from beginning to end. The narrative gave me little time to breathe, as I swiftly turned the pages to see what would happen next.
The Followers is a brilliant book and left me thinking about the story and characters for a long time afterwards.
I won a copy of the book in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.