Miriam was born and raised in New Jerusalem; her parents were among the first faithful. She accepts her world at face value (strict male/female separation before marriage, weird rules of socializing after marriage, interpretation of dreams, etc.) but when the ordained Matrimony doesn't go like it's supposed to, she starts asking questions. Interestingly, she's willing to accept the unexpected results, except that so many people, from charismatic autocrat Daniel on down, are clearly upset about the outcome. Daniel even seems to think that what happened somehow puts the community in danger. But once Miriam starts looking, she sees oddities everywhere.
"It's like a puzzle that's been jumbled. Like someone tried to jam some pieces in where they don't belong," says Miriam. I couldn't have described it better. At first glance, this is yet another book about a religious cult, featuring a young woman who begins to question the garbage being fed to the faithful. Except there's a lot to figure out in this book. Like, who actually is a true believer, and to what lengths is Daniel willing to go to preserve his power? To what lengths has he already gone? And what in the world is Susanna up to?
There are definitely a lot of layers in this book. In addition, I found Miriam to be a particularly good character, and her inner voice drew me in right away. With elements of Vox, The Handmaid's Tale, and Educated, this book is an believable imagination of what the inside of a cult looks like to insiders. I wouldn't mind if Schuren took the characters a step further and imagined how they adjust after the action in this part of the story ends.