Handmaid's Tale for the junior high set, New Zealander Beal's engrossing novel peers into the restricted world of the Children of the Faith, a "/>

I AM NOT ESTHER

Fleur Beale, Author . Hyperion $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7868-0845-8

Sort of a Handmaid's Tale for the junior high set, New Zealander Beal's engrossing novel peers into the restricted world of the Children of the Faith, a rigidly traditional (and fictional) Christian sect. Resourceful Kirby has never known any family aside from her impractical mother, Ellen. When Ellen abruptly makes plans to fulfill her lifelong dream of working with refugees in Africa, she sends Kirby to her long-estranged brother, the strict and pious Caleb, and his wife and children. Renamed Esther ("The women of our faith all have biblical names. As do the men," explains soberly clad Aunt Naomi), Kirby chafes at the restrictions forced on her by her newfound kin: they dictate her style of dress and hair, forbid slang and even contractions, and resolutely discourage any ambitions aside from an early marriage and plenty of children. Angry and confused though she is, Kirby becomes attached to her newfound cousins, in particular the vulnerable five-year-old Maggie (Magdalene) and teenage Daniel, who is himself struggling to reconcile his interest in becoming a doctor with the community's mores. Though several plot twists seem to exist mostly to serve the novel's decidedly anti-fundamentalist stance (only dissenter Kirby, for example, has the courage to defy her uncle and get her ailing pregnant aunt the help she needs), this tale still has more than enough power to chill. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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FORMATS
Prebound-Other - 250 pages - 978-0-606-30563-1
Prebound-Sewn - 250 pages - 978-1-4176-1800-2
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-1-877135-48-4
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-0-7868-1673-6
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-1-4596-5748-9
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