I thought at first from the blurb that this would be Dystopian, but it’s about a cult, the lengths a person in power will go to keep their followers in line and the sheer delusion of those trapped on the inside.
New Jerusalem sits out in the desert in California, set apart from the rest of the world, the inhabitants live a very secluded lifestyle. No reading, no tv, no music, no singing, women are kept repressed, encouraged not to speak, the focus of learning is on scripture and Daniel’s interpretation of scripture, how he applies it to his followers and their lives.
Miriam is a second generation member, her mother was with Daniel when New Jerusalem was formed. She sometimes questions why certain things are the way they are, but she isn’t supposed to. Her mother is very tight-lipped when it comes to revealing her past, her life on what they call “the outside”, something she’s not supposed to talk about. But Miriam is a bit headstrong, and sometimes she’s able to get her mother to open up about certain things. But this is her way of life, and she’s a devout follower, most of the time. Until her day of Matrimony when she weds the foreigner and not the man she thought she would, Caleb. Her new husband, Aaron, isn’t all about the rules, and his ideas might just chip away at Miriam’s beliefs.
There were times in reading that I cheered Miriam on, for doubting what she’s been told, for wanting more, for questioning things she thought she knew. Then other times I just wanted to hit her for her blind regurgitation of Daniel’s words. It’s easy from the outside to judge and say Miriam should have known, she should have just believed Aaron because he knew the world “outside.” But the level of brainwashing that happened here (and in cults such as this) is unimaginable. The new generation was born into this cult and being cut off from the outside world, they don’t know any better, they have no way to know any better.
I enjoyed both Miriam and Aaron’s characters, much more so than Caleb. But I think that was because Miriam already had her doubts, so it made it easier for her to trust in Aaron, whereas Caleb scared me towards the end with how strong his faith was after everything he had seen. The Virtue of Sin is well-written, it’s an engaging story with wonderful characters, a good read.