The Followers is the compelling second novel of the British author Rebecca Wait. Stephanie is living a mundane life with her daughter, making what little money she can at a local coffee shop. But then she meets Nathaniel, a man who says he wants to love her, look after her and make her happy. Stephanie and Judith move in with Nathaniel at a place known as the Ark, with a bunch of other people who are part of a religious cult. Nathaniel, who proclaims himself as a prophet, is determined for Stephanie to forget about her past and turn herself to God. Judith, however, is not so easy to persuade. However a turn of events raise questions as to whether Nathaniel should really be trusted.
The story begins with Stephanie in prison where she is serving her sentence for a crime the reader has no knowledge of. It then switches between “before” and “after” with “before” being when Stephanie meets Nathaniel and “after” involving the prison scenes. From the very start the reader knows something bad is going to happen, that Stephanie is going to break a law bad enough for her to be imprisoned. The following chapters keep readers guessing what exactly that offence would be.
The novel gets darker and darker as the truth about the running of the Ark is revealed. With violence and punishments being doled out, Nathaniel is no longer the man he originally appeared. As the book climaxes it is shocking when the reader realizes what it is that Stephanie is going to do.
As well as Judith there are other children living in the Ark, but the difference is they were born there and have known nothing else except doing things in the name of God. Judith on the other hand was not sheltered from the “evils” of the outside world and thus has a different opinion about the way Nathaniel treats his followers. As it turns out, Judith is right to distrust the ways of this man, but there is nothing she can do about her situation.
Although containing a strong religious theme, The Followers is not a piece of Christian fiction. The behaviour of Nathaniel and the members of the Ark does not reflect the average Christian, and everyone, whether religious or not, will be shocked by the happenings in this book.
It took a while to get into the storyline and the first few chapters did not feel particularly well written, however readers will quickly be sucked into the plot and will want to keep reading to find out what happens. The Followers is not a happy story and there are a few sad and distressing scenes, which make the reader really feel for some of the characters. Overall it is a very interesting read.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon