Down from the Mountain tells the story of Eva, a fourteen year old girl who lives on a ranch in Colorado with her mother, her best friends Annie and Jacob, a dozen or so additional mothers and the Prophet Ezekiel, God’s representative on Earth and the one man chosen to lead four hundred and forty-four souls straight to the gates of Heaven, come the end of days.
Yes! Eva lives in a crazy cult!
Gotta say, I find the whole concept of cults fascinating, so I was really excited to read this book. The plot is a bit of a slow burner to begin with and there’s a lot of description about life in the cult, about the constant praying and fasting and so on, but it picked up a lot in the second half and rattled along quite excitingly.
I liked Eva immensely as a main character. She was very intelligent and was devoted to her mother, despite the fact that they were forbidden from having a close relationship with each other. I liked the way Eva was torn between life on the Righteous Path and her natural curiosity about the outside world. She’s had it hammered into her from the age of four that life as a ‘heathen’ would mean the loss of her eternal soul, and all she wants to do is be a good disciple, but she is increasingly enticed by the world outside the compound she lives on and suspicious of Prophet Ezekiel’s motives.
The thing I didn’t really get was why everyone chose to follow Ezekiel. From the first page, he just comes across as terrifying and creepy and the kind of guy you’d just want to run a billion miles from. I understand cult leaders are really charismatic and manipulative and that they prey on people who are vulnerable, but Ezekiel was just horrible to everyone. I wasn’t really getting any charisma or manipulation, just bullying. I didn’t understand how he managed to convince all those women to leave their husbands and marry him instead! Also, how were they all okay with him living in luxury while everyone else basically lived in a barn? I guess the manipulation went on behind the scenes, but I would have liked to have seen more of it.
I thought the writing was very gripping, and the author dealt with the whole dichotomy between ‘people who are religious’ and ‘people who do crazy things in the name of religion’ sensitively. I would definitely recommend this book.