“Eden West” by Pete Hautman
Synopsis: A world within a world…
Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. Only the Grace will be spared.
But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl who tempts him to sample forbidden Worldly pleasures.
Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer.
Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.
3 out of 5 stars
Eden West is the story of 17 year old Jacob, raised in Nodd, surrounded by the people of Grace since he was a toddler. Nodd exists in a 12 mile radius in the wilds of Montana and the Grace are led by their powerful and charismatic leader, Father Grace, whose word is law.
The cult of Grace is isolated from the outside world, geographically and spiritually. At the heart of their worship is a giant, ancient crab apple tree and many of the decisions made are based around seasons and when the tree will flower and bear fruit.
Jacob has never had any reason to doubt any of the teachings of Grace as that is all he knows. He does as he is told with no question until an outside family of newly converted come to Nodd. Then, his world is turned upside down as everything he has believed in is questioned and threatened.
While patrolling the borders, he also meets the neighboring rancher’s daughter – Lynna. Lynna also challenges his to think about life outside Nodd and outside the teachings of the Grace.
When reading this, I thought a lot about living in those circumstances. Knowing only the world I was taught and nothing else. Then having that knowledge stripped away and how frightening that would be. Jacob is afraid and full of self blame and doubt and this shows. He spends time punishing himself, scourging his back with pine branches to drive away the “impure” thoughts and emotions these new people stir in him.
While the store does require some suspension of belief, the emotion does ring true and I enjoyed it. The book is full of symbolism, from the Tree of Life, to the wolf amongst the sheep. This is a different sort of coming of age story.