The Virtue of Sin

The Virtue of Sin

by Shannon Schuren

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Overview

A compelling novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free -- perfect for fans of The Handmaid's Tale and Tara Westover's Educated.

Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she's forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she's thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn--and challenge--the truth behind the only way of life she's ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

Praise for The Virtue of Sin:

"Shannon Schuren weaves a complex tale of love, faith, and lies in her thought-provoking debut The Virtue of Sin. As important as it is entertaining, this is a must-read for anyone who knows that independent thought trumps fitting in. One of my favorite reads of the year." --Christina Dalcher, bestselling author of VOX

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525516545
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 132,438
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Shannon Schuren (shannon.schuren.org) works as a children's librarian at a public library and writes from a cozy she-shed in her backyard. Her short stories have appeared in various journals such as Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Big Pulp, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Shannon lives in Sheboygan Falls, WI, with her husband and three children. Follow her on Twitter @shannonschuren.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The girls never get a choice.

Recite your Prayers, report for Lessons, respect your Elders. Do unto others and as you are told. Keep your hair tidy and your thoughts to yourself. There is no choosing—not of intentions, not of words, not of spouses. This has always been our way in New Jerusalem.

Sixteen years ago, my father chose my mother at the first Matrimony, on a spring night just like this where the Elders were paired as husband and wife. I know this because it’s part of our community’s historical record, not because they told me. My parents would never speak of anything so personal. That’s between them and God. Well, and Daniel.

Even now, as my mother and I swelter in the Communal Kitchen to finish last-minute preparations for tonight’s feast, I know that whatever questions I have about tonight will go unanswered. I know only this: At some point during the night, one of the boys will call my name, announcing our union. That will be my cue to leave the bonfire and head toward the opening of the lava caves at the foot of the mountain. As a woman, it will be the one and only time I’ll be allowed in the Marriage Cave. Afterward, I will be forbidden to talk about anything that happens inside. I can’t imagine why. I can only suppose the proceedings are too sacred to speak of, or too profane. My own father is the only man I know well enough to ask the reason behind all the secrecy, but I doubt he’d tell me. If I even see him between now and tonight’s ceremony; he only steps foot inside a kitchen if he needs something. Though our Leader says there are no menial tasks, it often seems like the women get stuck with the less noble jobs.

Like the chores I’ve been assigned today. Soak the beans. Seed the peppers. Wash and peel the potatoes. Tend the fire in the wide oven wall, where the goat has been slowly roasting for the past twelve hours. Bite my tongue and don’t complain about the temperature, which has been steadily climbing throughout the day in this long, airless room.

Our eyes meet, and my mother reads something in my expression, because she looks away first, scraping the juicy jalapeño pulp across the surface of the carving table with the dull edge of her knife. “Not now, Miriam.” She turns to pull a tray from the bank of ovens that span the width of the room. A tendril of steam escapes a crack in the top of the perfectly browned corn bread.

I’ve spent the past ten days eating nothing but vegetables and drinking nothing but water, as is our custom before a celebration of this magnitude. Yesterday, I would have clawed someone’s eyes out for a piece of that bread, but now the stifling heat and the smell of the charred goat turns my stomach, and all I can think about is the row of windows that tops the tiled walls and how I’d begged to tilt them open, even a fraction. But Mother says the dust will spoil the food.

“Are Rachel and Delilah as nervous as you?” She dumps the bread onto a cooling rack beside the stove, then uses the back of her wrist to wipe sweat from her forehead.

“I’m not nervous.”

My mother raises an eyebrow.

Even if she doesn’t believe me, it’s not a lie. I’m curious and excited, but I’m not nervous. Delilah and Rachel, though, are terrified. They know just as little as I do about tonight, but perhaps they have more to lose. I have no reason to share their fear. I know which boy is going to call my name tonight, which boy is about to become my husband.

My husband. In just a few hours, I’ll be allowed to speak those words aloud. My skin prickles into gooseflesh at the thought.

“My husband.” I can’t resist. I say it low, under the wet slice of the potato peeler, but my mother still hears.

“I don’t know who it will be. And even if I did, I couldn’t say,” she whispers, though the room is empty aside from us. The others have already left to set up Outside. Only my mother has volunteered us to stay behind to finish up, to avoid leaving the safety of the city for as long as possible. She grew up Outside, without our Leader’s guidance, in a faraway place called San Diego. Whatever happened to her there left her tight-lipped and afraid, and more than willing to sacrifice a few moments of freedom for the stifling confines of the Kitchen. Just the few steps she will take through the gates tonight, to witness my marriage, have had her worried and fearful for weeks.

Unlike me, she and the other Elders have been on the other side of the fence, many times. They used to hold all kinds of celebrations in the sacred tunnels as well as out in the middle of the desert. But that was before one of Daniel’s Children betrayed their faith and broke their trust.

She once told me that being on the other side made her feel exposed. Actually, the word she used was naked. What I didn’t tell her was that I’ve yearned for that same feeling. That secretly, I think I might like it. That I would never say aloud. Like many of my thoughts, it’s unsuitable and liable to earn me a punishment. The Elders say I’m incapable of keeping anything to myself, but sometimes I manage. Still, it’s impossible for me to keep entirely quiet, especially on a day this special.

“Why does everything about tonight have to be a secret? It’s in the Bible. ‘He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.’ Proverbs 18:22.” I’m allowed to quote Scripture; sometimes it feels as if that’s all I’m allowed. For mainly this reason I’ve retained a great many of the passages we’ve studied in the classroom, a skill that both delights and frustrates my mother. “And anyway, I don’t need you to tell me who he is. I already know.”

“What?” She holds her knife aloft, the newly skinned potatoes lying forgotten in front of her. “There’s no way you could possibly know that. Unless—” She narrows her eyes. “Has one of the boys tried to speak to you?”

My mother has always possessed the ability to look past my babble and straight into my heart. “Of course not,” I say, the words tumbling out in my haste to explain. “No one’s spoken to anyone.” This is not a lie, and so hopefully will pass her scrutiny. “I just . . . I dreamt of him. There was music, and a bonfire. And we were in the cave—”

Her eyes widen, and she drops the knife to grip my hands. “Who told you this?”

“No one.” I shake loose. “I told you, I dreamt it.”

Her face relaxes into a smile, and she presses her forehead to mine. “I knew it,” she whispers. “I knew you had a gift. He’ll be so proud.”

Her declaration sends a thrill through me that’s almost as good as a gust of cool air. As the reincarnation of the Prophet, our Leader has always been the one to interpret the messages we receive from the Lord in our dreams. But I’d always secretly hoped that one day, God might choose to communicate with me directly. “Who will be proud? Father? Or Daniel?”

“Yes. Both. They both will.” My mother wipes her hands on her apron, moves the clasp on her crucifix to the back of her neck, and adjusts her head scarf, checking for loose hairs with a practiced finger. There aren’t any, of course.

“Did you love him?” I ask.

Her hands still. Her face changes. “Who are you talking about?”

I’ve spent years studying her every expression. She’s taught me to interpret the faintest sign of displeasure, but I don’t need any lessons to read the annoyance in her face.

“Father must have loved you,” I say. “Because he chose you. But on that night, did you know—”

She presses her lips together. “Stop. Do you want to risk a Shaming?”

“Surely you can tell me something. In a few hours, I’ll be a woman, too. What will a few details matter now?”

She turns away to tend the meat, so I can no longer see her face. I watch her hands instead, their choppy quick movements as she uses the poker to stir the coals. “The less you expect, the better,” she says. “Marriage should feel like a gift, not an obligation.”

“After sixteen years, what’s one more obligation?” I toss the potatoes into a bowl, angry at myself as much as her. What did I expect? She lives to obey; in this regard she’s exactly like Rachel. Or Rachel is like her. This may be the one thing the Bible has gotten wrong. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Sometimes it breeds likeness. After Rachel’s mother left New Jerusalem, my family took Rachel in and raised her. And though they have no blood ties, my best friend is more my mother’s daughter than I am.

Rachel comes in just then, as if I’ve summoned her with my disloyal thoughts. And behind her, my father, trailed by a passel of small children. None of them are his; younger kids just always seem drawn to Father, despite his complete indifference to their adoration. I think it’s his bald head they find unusual.

“What’s taking so long?” He wrinkles his nose as he surveys the necessary chaos that comes from preparing a meal for over one hundred people. “The men are getting hungry.”

“The music has started!” Rachel says, darting over to me. “Can you believe it? It’s finally happening.” She fans herself, sweat already beading on her upper lip. In a few more minutes, her dark hair will be as frizzy as mine. “Whew. It’s hot in here,” she says. “What can I do to help? The faster we finish, the sooner we can go Outside.”

My mother turns pale.

“Ruth. You look tired,” says Father.

Why is it men never curb their tongues? Of course she’s tired. We’ve been cooking in this furnace for the past six hours. Personally, I think Father looks stiff and uncomfortable, the lines on his face more pronounced today. It could be the heat, or the unfamiliarity of the kitchen. Either way, I keep this to myself.

“Miriam. Haven’t you been helping your mother?” He takes a step toward me and trips over Delilah’s youngest brother. “Damnation, Ezekiel! Why are you always underfoot?”

“I’m Zacharias. And I’m small.” He bursts into tears and dives under the table, upending the bowl of potatoes.

Mother holds the platter of meat high, stepping carefully around the errant vegetables rolling across the floor. “Everything’s fine, Boaz. Miriam’s been a big help. In fact, I’m pleased to see how much she’s improving. She’s going to make someone a wonderful wife.”

He makes a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat and crosses his arms. Mother glances at his gleaming white linen shirt and pants and then looks for somewhere else to set her tray, while I kneel to gather the spilled food, the back of my neck prickling under the weight of Father’s stare.

Rachel goes around to the other side of the table to coax Zacharias out. She crosses her pale eyes and wiggles her thick eyebrows, and he giggles through his tears. “I want my mommy,” he says, as he crawls into Rachel’s outstretched arms.

We all have our talents. Rachel’s is mothering. Mother’s is cooking. Mine isn’t either one. I’m also not going to make just someone a wonderful wife. He has a name. But like any woman here, my mother never really says what she means.

“I’ll get this,” she says. Mother pulls a potato from my grasp and waves me off. “We’re nearly done here anyway. Go and help Rachel with the children. It’s too hot in here for them, and there’s no one in the Medical Shed to treat heatstroke today.” Like my mother, the other nurse has been temporarily relieved of her Vocational Duties to help prepare for tonight’s festivities.

I hesitate, but freedom tugs at me like the devil’s hand. Besides, she’s used to cleaning up our messes. It’s how she shows her love.

I stand and brush off my skirt, then Rachel hoists Zacharias onto her hip, and I grab the tray of vegetables and corn bread my mother has carefully arranged. Father holds the back door, and as we step out I’m rewarded with a rush of fresh air that cools my heated skin so quickly it makes me shiver.

“Straight to the feasting tables. No dawdling,” Father says to me, then turns to the other children. “I need to move the benches from Chapel out to the bonfires. Who wants to help me?”

Some of the older children raise their hands and follow him toward the city center, while the rest scatter, leaving Rachel and me to deliver Zacharias and the rest of the food.

The sun is slipping low in the sky, hovering above the mountain ahead and blinding us, so that we have to make our way to the front gate almost by memory. We cut through the welcome shade of the Pavilion, the open-air shelter where most of our communal Gatherings take place, including our yearly Last Supper and the Epiphany Festival. This used to be as near to the sacred tunnels as we ever got. But tonight, because it is the most important of all our celebrations, Daniel has decreed that the Matrimony will actually take place inside them.

It won’t be the first Matrimony—that was the marriage of my parents and the other Elders of the First Generation—but it will be the biggest. This is the first time God has spoken to any of the Second Generation, and the first time He’s spoken to so many at once. And most important, at least to me, it’s the first time He’s spoken my name.

My heart sings with excitement as our feet lead us down the path and through the gates stretched wide to allow the men through as they carry out the tables and benches and other equipment needed for tonight’s celebration. Once we cross Zzyzx Road, we are officially Outside for the first time in our lives. I am overcome by a feelingI struggle to name. This road that stretches on forever, the endless expanse of desert and sky, unblemished by gate or guard—these are the things the Elders have warned against, and yet, here I am. Untethered. Free. At least for one night.

Rachel grabs my arm and points to the flags waving in the distance, stark white against the dark rock of the mountain to mark the entrance. “There it is! The Marriage Cave!” She raises her voice to be heard above the rhythmic blend of harp, reed, and bells streaming from big speakers into the open air—the same sound system that in just a few hours will be used to announce our futures.

We hurry past the girls’ bonfire, skirting a cluster of younger girls playing hopscotch in the sand, and over to the feasting tables. The lavish buffet I helped my mother prepare will soon be set out; until then, the rest of the women straighten tablecloths and arrange bread and sweets into piles. Delilah is here, too, moving a plate from one side of the table to the other and then back again as her mother, Chloe, supervises.

Zacharias bursts into tears at the sight of his mother and squirms to be put down. When Rachel releases him, he runs to Chloe and buries his face in her skirt.

“There you are! Your sister and I have been looking everywhere for you!”

Delilah rolls her eyes heavenward. “I told you he was with Rachel, Mother.”

“And I told you to keep an eye on him,” Chloe says, but she sounds only mildly exasperated.

Normally, Delilah is tasked with wrangling her many brothers and sisters. But today is a special occasion. With no Lessons, and the Elders preoccupied with Celebration preparations, it’s expected that the children should also get a chance to enjoy this tiny taste of freedom. Plus, it’s her wedding day.

As Rachel and I hand over the trays of vegetables and bread, another mother, Judith, slips the crying boy a cookie, and his tears immediately evaporate.

“Delilah, move those cookies to make room,” Chloe orders.

Delilah wrinkles her nose as she sticks her tongue out at us, her freckles blurring into one sandy cluster, but she does as she’s told. Until we serve our husbands, we must serve our parents.

Judith hands us each a cookie and wipes her calloused hands on the apron tied over her dress. The women are all in nicer clothes tonight, the dresses they normally save for Chapel. Rachel and I and the other girls will wear white for the wedding, while Judith and the other Elders are dressed in traditional cream linen. “How are you girls feeling? Nervous? Excited?” she asks.

I’m tongue-tied all of a sudden, and to cover, I shove the cookie in my mouth. Judith is almost as good a cook as my mother, and she’s definitely a better baker. Not that she looks it. She’s thin and wiry, like she never eats. And maybe she doesn’t. With a husband and six sons, maybe the food never makes it to her plate.

“We’re excited and nervous,” Rachel answers for both of us.

Judith smiles. “The boys are the same,” she says, waving a hand toward the glow in the distance. “I finally sent Caleb and Marcus away. They were more hindrance than anything.”

“Oh, I can’t imagine Caleb being a hindrance. Can you, Miriam?” Delilah asks.

I choke on my cookie, and Rachel gives me a raised eyebrow and a tiny shake of her head. “What can we do to help?” she asks the women, too loudly.

“There’s still the meat—” Delilah’s mother says, but Judith interrupts.

“Let them go, Chloe. This is their special night.” Judith winks, and this time I’m sure it’s at me.

Delilah doesn’t give her mother time to reconsider. “Let’s go.” She crams the cookie in her mouth and links her arms through both Rachel’s and mine, pulling us away from the food and the fire and into the darkness of the night desert.

We walk, mostly because we can and everyone else is too busy to stop us, but we’re careful to keep Zzyzx Road and the city fence to our left, while the voices of the women and children fade at our backs. We weave our way slowly between scattered rocks and the spindly Joshua trees with their branches raised toward heaven in prayer, like their namesake at the Battle of Jericho. But what do these trees pray for?

Sometimes I imagine they were once people, like us, stuck out here so long they grew roots. A blasphemous thought, I know. I pluck one of the waxy blossoms sprouting from their outstretched arms like pale fingertips and tuck it behind my ear. Unlike other wildflowers, these don’t bloom every spring. Their appearance is the very reason we’re all out here tonight. It’s a sign God has finally called for another Matrimony.

Rachel finishes her cookie and dusts the crumbs from her face. Then she squints into the darkness. “It’s time to go back.”

I don’t ask how she knows. Rachel’s sense of duty is as inborn as the dent in the bridge of her nose, the one she rubs when she’s nervous.

“You two go on,” I say. “I’ll follow in a minute.”

“Or you could just come with us now. We still have to change out of our work dresses.”

I sigh. “I have to pee, Rachel.”

She wrinkles her nose, then massages the dent. “There’s no toilet out here. You can go at the house.”

“I can’t hold it that long. I’ll go behind this tree.”

Delilah’s eyes widen with glee; Rachel’s with shock. “You can’t,” Rachel says.

“Of course I can. The men do it all the time. I’ve seen them.”

At her gasp, I amend my words. “I don’t mean I’ve actually seen them. I mean, I’ve seen my father go off by himself, behind the Pavilion. So why can’t I?”

“Because you’re a girl?” Rachel counters.

“But it’s still pee,” Delilah says. “There’s no difference between male and female pee.”

Delilah has done enough diaper changing to know, and Rachel gives up the fight. “Even so, I’m not going to stand around while you pollute the desert. Come on, Delilah.”

“That’s why I told you to go ahead,” I call after their retreating backs. “And it’s not pollution if the animals all do it.” I don’t actually have to pee, but my argument is still valid.

I walk a bit more until I’m far enough away from the bonfire so that if I squint, the flames are hands holding up a column of climbing smoke as an offering. The sun has slipped all the way behind the mountain now, and above me, stars decorate the sky like thousands of candles lit in honor of tonight’s marriages. The magnitude of all this beauty, all this freedom, leaves me breathless. I know this is the same desert I see every day, but Out here, it’s wild and untended. Here, the ground is unswept, the sand coarse and rocky, the bunches of yucca and desert paintbrush scattered by God instead of gardener. The farther I go from New Jerusalem, the less evidence I see of any human hand.

I walk until I see the guards. I knew I’d run into them eventually, and that I’d have to stop before they caught me. We were told they would be patrolling during the celebration. Even Outside, there are still boundaries we can’t breach. But it doesn’t matter, because I’ve come far enough. I turn and duck behind one of the taller trees, my heart pounding in the stillness. For the first time tonight, I am afraid. Not of being chosen, but of being caught—here, at the boys’ fire. Tonight, of all nights, I shouldn’t risk this.

But I need to see him one more time.

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The Virtue of Sin 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Donna172 5 days ago
It's hard to write a review of this book without giving away too much information, but here goes. The Virtue of Sin is based upon the life of 16 year old Mirian who was born into a cult (New Jerusalem) and knows nothing about the outside world. One of the "traditions" that the cult practices is the Matrimony ceremony. Young members of the cult are matched and married. Supposedly, they dream about who their spouse is going to be, but is that really how it works? When a problem arises at Miriam's matriomony ceremony and she is not chosen by the person she dreamed of, she begins to question all that is going on around here. God is the One who speaks to them in their dreams, but is it really God and if he speaks does it really even matter to Daniel (the prophet). Miriam begins to find her voice and finds out some things that are shocking to her. How can she get the others to believe what she has learned. There are several other characters that are important to the plot and the chapters alternate between them. I loved being able to hear the points of view of these characters. When I first started reading this book, I thought that it was a dystopian book, but around midway through, I discovered that it was a cult. This made it all the more interesting for me! The first part of the book dragged a little bit for me but as I kept on reading I was totally drawn into the story. The ending was fast paced and had many surprises and shocking findings for Miriam and some of the other members of the cult. The book is labeled as YA but I would be cautious about having students below high school age read it. I think that some of the situations are for a more mature audience. Thank you to #BookishFirst and #PenguinTeen for the ARC!
Lisa_Loves_Literature 16 days ago
I'm always intrigued by any story about a cult, don't know why, it's just something that grabs me. And this book did just that from the time I read the sneak peek, and then once I actually had the book in my hands and started reading, it was so hard to put down. This one was even better than others, because while I thought I knew what was going to happen, the author threw in several twists and turns that I did not see coming. My guesses as I went along were either so on track, or just to the side of what was actually happening. It all made sense as the twists were explained, and made the story, the cult itself, that much more devious. It also made you think about how what you've been told your whole life is always dependent on who is telling you those things, and what more is out there that you don't even know about it, if you don't look beyond what is easy and normal. I definitely will be recommending this for my students, as well as at the bookstore where I work.
Dhammelef 23 days ago
I loved this book from the very start and really can't find anything I didn't like. The premise drew me to this book as cult cultures have always intrigued me. Why do people follow? Why does someone start a cult? What happens to these people when the cult fails? This author gives the reader characters that made me believe the possibilities for the answers to my questions and kept me turning the pages long after bed time. Here's what made this a highly rated book for me: 1) The writing--the metaphors alone are genius and signs of a talented artist 2) The characters--these people popped off the pages, especially Miriam and Aaron, my favorites 3) The cult society felt spot on 4) The family and friendship 5) Learning what it means to speak for yourself and finding your own voice 6) The suspense and pacing 7) The twists I NEVER saw coming and LOVED 8) All the emotions this book brought out in me Bravo to this author! I will read her next book and can't wait to see what she does next.
madeline934 24 days ago
At first I thought this book was set in an alternate universe, like a dystopian novel. But, it’s actually about the life of a teenage girl who is a part of a cult. Not that she knows enough to call it that, it’s the only life she’s ever known. I love the themes of feminism and independence in this book. Miriam is a strong female lead who thinks for herself and forms her own opinions despite what she’s been taught all her life. I think the overall theme of feminism is especially relevant in today’s political climate. Within the cult women are not to speak unless spoken to, and have no control over their bodies once they are married, since their husbands “own” them basically. Given the controversy over women’s rights and women’s health in the US, I think this book is a really important and worthwhile read.
Hannah Geyik 26 days ago
Thanks to Bookish First and Penguin Teen for the ARC of this book! The best way that I can describe this book is a mash-up of Jonestown and Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It has all of the urgency of Haddix's book and the same feel of isolation combined with the charismatic and dangerous leader of the real-life Jonestown. New Jerusalem is an oasis in the middle of the desert (although we don't find out WHICH desert until much later in the book). It is a self-sufficient religious commune where everyone does their part and "Keeps Faithful" in exchange for entrance into Paradise. New Jerusalem is led by a man named Daniel, a self-proclaimed profit of God who maintains order, interprets dreams, and speaks to God. The women of New Jerusalem are told to hold their tongues and submit to the will of their fathers, their husbands, and, above all, Daniel. Peace and order have been maintained in New Jerusalem for a generation, ever since the Elders followed Daniel into the desert to found the colony. The men and women were paired off during the first Matrimony and proceeded to procreate. Now the eldest children of the second generation have reached a marriageable age. It is time for the second Matrimony. The young men of New Jerusalem are supposed to have dreams of their future wives as a sign that the union is ordained by God. Miriam knows that she and Caleb are meant to be together; Caleb has dreamt of her. She is sure she knows her future, but then something goes terribly wrong at the Matrimony and the dark past of New Jerusalem, hidden like the caves upon which the colony is built, comes to light. This book is incredibly well written and captivating. The narrative switches between the characters of Miriam and Caleb so the reader gets to experience events from two perspectives. It is particularly interesting to hear the inner thoughts of the two characters and how each comes to grips with the knowledge that the place they were born and the man they were raised to believe was a prophet may not be all they assumed he was.
gelm 26 days ago
Another Cult Novel I enjoyed this book, but honestly it was just another cult novel. There was nothing really new or particularly shocking about this book. Miriam was just another brainwashed girl who finally learned to think for herself. Once I knew that Aaron and his "parents" were former "Outsiders", I figured out they were undercover operatives trying to bring down the cult. Caleb's chapters were so sad. He just wanted to be with Miriam, but could not understand what Daniel was doing. I was glad when he finally realized that Miriam needed to be allowed to make her own choices and that he could not force her to be with him. Someone finally needed to realize that women have voices and choices. That was probably the best part of the book.
Kelsey Bickmore 26 days ago
At first this looked like a dystopia, but then it quickly turned out to be a small cult. The cool thing about this is that I know the area where this story takes place. That helped to add a bit of realism to the novel. I had just read the Handmaid's Tale for the first time and so I kept comparing the two books. They are both good, but The Virtue of Sin is on a smaller level of just one community, but it is more updated to the times. The points of view were from Miriam and Caleb. Miriam was an easy to like character and I liked Caleb until he was just so angry at everyone, all the time, that it got kind of irritating. I did like the twist and when I got to that point, everything went much faster. I enjoyed reading this book.
ReadbyRed 26 days ago
Would you blindly follow? Would you do whatever the leader asks? Would you go against your own heart? Would you perpetrate a lie for the betterment of the community? Now ask yourself, why would someone answer yes to these? Daniel is the leader of New Jerusalem, a religious community practically cut off from the outside world. Members of the community are expected to adhere to his strict rules, rules that prevent boys and girls from speaking to each other or having contact, rules requiring dream journals, rules meant to discourage independent thought. Unfortunately for Daniel, some independent thought and ideas are about to make their way into New Jerusalem, beginning with the Marriage Cave. Shannon Schuren has me hooked within the first chapter, and she never let go. I love the way the story is told, switching between Caleb and Miriam as narrators. Her character development is incredibly deep—Aaron is my favorite—often leaving me with the desire to “knock some sense” into them because I wanted better for them. The story itself is brilliant, a true page-turner, that did not disappoint. If you like anything having to do with cults and reprogramming, or just a thrilling, fast-paced but satisfying book, be sure to grab a copy of The Virtue of Sin of June 25th! Thank you to Philomel Books and Penguin Random House, Shannon Schuren, and BookishFirst for an Advanced Readers Copy of The Virtue of Sin for an honest review.
Mais 26 days ago
I was very pleased to be able to read an ARC of this book! The synopsis caught my attention right away. This novel is based in the heart of a religious community (a cult). First off, The way the characters progressed throughout the story is impressive. The pacing was exceptional, it really highlighted the idea that the community has brainwashed the people within it. There's one character, Aaron, who knows more about the 'Outside' world than everyone else taking part in the cult because he had lived in the outside world previously. This has a nice influence on Miriam's character because she starts to question the cult mentality, however slowly. I enjoyed Miriam as a character, she has a lot of personality compared to those around her. She wasn't okay with being pushed around by men, and I found the feminism portrayed perfectly. It was worded well, and didn't feel over the top or forced. Also, if you like plot twist endings, this book's for you. The ending had me shocked (in a good way) and I couldn't put the book down. Overall, this was a great read and I highly recommend it.
judgie39 26 days ago
In the community of New Jerusalem, located in the Californian desert, the Children of David do their best to live a life worthy of God, free from sin. The Prophet David makes all decisions, acting as the voice of God. Women are not allowed many freedoms and are submissive to men. When, at the age of 16, it is time for the Second Generation to participate in Matrimony and the young men to choose their wives based on dreams interpreted by David, things start to go wrong. Secrets are revealed and the truth about this community comes to light. I could not put this book down. Told from alternating perspectives, the story moves smoothly back and forth between inquisitive Miriam and faithful Caleb. The intertwining stories and craziness of the community kept me intrigued the entire time. My only concern is that the book is marketed to ages 12 and up and some of the topics are a little sensitive: sex (no scenes, but alluded to throughout the book) and statutory rape. Perhaps it would be better suited for 14 and up.
Peaches82 26 days ago
A great novel about a cult where the women aren't allowed choices or to get to use their "voice". Miriam is a faithful follower until things go wrong in the marriage ceremony. Will her inner voice get to be heard? I really loved Miriam and Aaron. I liked that Aaron was so good at talking to Miriam in little ways to get her to start thinking about her life and helping to bring out those inner thoughts Miriam has been having. I liked Caleb at first, but I kept getting angrier and angrier with him throughout the story. He says he loves Miriam, but when she starts letting him know about her doubts to Caleb about their life.. He kind of starts to become too protective over Daniel and not her. Well written and drew me in!
Jerricka 27 days ago
In New Jerusalem, things don't go right for a few teens. They begin to question the way of things and face consequences for disbelieving in God's plan for them. I saw a comparison to The Handmaid's Tale but I'm not convinced that's accurate. I kept thinking about the show Escaping Polygamy because it's centered in a religious cult. It's heartbreaking to know that this kind of situation isn't always fiction. There are communities of people that are told how to live. Women are told not to speak, who to marry, to cook and procreate as if that is all we are good for. They are isolated and have no idea how the rest of the world lives besides hearing that everyone outside their community is sinful. I love the cover of this book. The identical butterflies with one contrasting really sets it apart. Subtle yet meaningful.