Written by Lili Wilkinson
Reviewed by Charlotte Barkla
One part heart-breaking, one part intriguing and one part horrifying, this compelling tale demonstrates how a rational person could be indoctrinated into a violent cult and willingly deprived of their basic human rights. When Ruby’s younger brother is killed, her family is torn apart. With her mother stricken with grief and barely functional, her father awaiting trial and her brother gone, sixteen-year-old Ruby’s life has been turned upside down.
Overcome with guilt and grief, Ruby feels at ease for the first time since Anton’s death when meets the gentle, soulful, sweetly-naive Fox. She gradually develops a close bond with Fox especially when he introduces her to a group called the Institute of the Boundless Sublime – his ‘family’. Aching from Anton’s death and longing to spend time with her new friend, Ruby agrees to join the Institute. At first life at the Institute seems innocent enough – it’s mainly healthy eating, early rising and listening to the elderly leader’s rambling lectures. Before long however, the terrifying, violence-driven nature of the cult is revealed, and Ruby is sucked in.
Written in first-person, Ruby’s voice is effective in showing her transition into the cult. As the story unfolds and Ruby is gradually brainwashed, the voice changes to show her subservience to the cult leader. This story thus allows empathy with such a person’s plight, and shines a light into this startling issue. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book but it may leave you obsessively googling true stories of cult survivors.
Allen & Unwin Children’s Books 2016 Paperback $19.99 352 pages ISBN 9781760113360