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I Am Not Esther (2004)

by Fleur Beale

Series: I am not Esther (1)

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3061785,543 (3.95)39
After her mother unexpectedly leaves her with her uncle's family, members of a fanatical Christian cult, Kirby tries to learn what has become of her mother and struggles to cope with the repressiveness of her new surroundings and to maintain her own identity.
  1. 00
    A Good Courage by Stephanie S. Tolan (infiniteletters)
  2. 00
    People Might Hear You by Robin Klein (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: Both books are about teenage girls who suddenly find themselves living within a strictly religious community, being forced to conform yet fighting to maintain their identity.
  3. 00
    The Unbeliever by Robert Swindells (mybookshelf)

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» See also 39 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Kirby has always taken care of her mother more than her mother has taken care of her: she does all the bill paying and grocery shopping, and keeps her mom on a budget as best she can. But just before Christmas her mom starts acting strange and nervous, and then suddenly they're packing their belongings and leaving town, with no real explanation. Her mother leaves Kirby with the family she's never met and who belong to a strict Christian cult the lives by The Rule. She's renamed Esther, forced to live by the cult's oppressive ways, and finds herself slowly losing her identity even as she fights to maintain it. Will she be able to escape and find her mother? Will she ever be Kirby again?

A good story that keeps the tension without getting too dark, and gives a good look into how harmful such sects can be both physically and mentally. Nicely drawn characters and good pacing. ( )
  electrascaife | Jan 25, 2023 |
do you ever feel like the only person on goodreads who Didn't Get It

this was so short and left me somewhere in the realm of "eh, okay," so i'm not even gonna pretend to format this like a proper review. enjoy jotnotes...

the good

- kirby herself. a goddamn fireball who i found pretty funny, wild, reckless, and for all her big talk, still had a heart and kindness to give to her 'siblings' and some of the church kids who she was initially a snot about

- loved loved loved how kirby became a big sister to Maggie, and how important Maggie was. I felt like she was dropped in the ending and we all forgot about her, but for someone who expected ONLY kirby and daniel to be the pair of rebellious awesome break-away teens while everyone else were god-fearing pests, i liked how close kirby got to the kids and how caring she became - in her own wild way.

- i appreciate kirby's conflicted feelings towards her mom. i feel like the proper emotional beats got scrambled and a little lost in the delivery, but all the pieces were there and they GENERALLY locked together nicely, so...yeah

- writing style. bugged me at first because it took me by surprise, but once i realized i was essentially reading a novella (my ereader calculated the pages as being hardly over 100 so it at least FELT shorter) i appreciated it more. while the story isn't packed with events, the style races us through at warp-speed. kirby's colourful commentary and humour were also really nice

the bad

- the Big One: the theme/thread that was apparently supposed to be so important that it became the title. man, this...was a let-down. kirby didn't change AT ALL. while the relationship with her mother swung a bit wildly, every other arc between her and the characters were predictable and tepid at best, and her relationship with the "persona" of Esther was wooorrrse. Kirby from start to finish was loud about her hatred of the rules, unwilling to budge, self-righteous, and cranky. It tried to sneak in some lines that held NO weight and NO evidence in her actual actions about how she was feeling herself drifting to their side or something, but they were so out of place and so ridiculously obvious that they felt like they were cut-pasted in after the novel was done as a second thought. they had no consequences beyond some throwaway lines about "o no i am esther" "no you aren't" "oh okay it's cool now." was i supposed to think that her saving Naomi FROM DEATH was a big sign of how she was changing and warming up to them? idk man I would call the police for some rando on the street, this doesn't prove anything.

- the "villains" were caricatures. like, i get the point, but kirby's biased narration left me feeling like i was missing something. i mean, they weren't completely irredeemable/void of any human qualities besides "pray", right?

- repetitive with things that were supposed to make me uncomfortable. they did initially - damn this uncle locking her away and praying like a maniac! but kirby was so bullheaded and dismissive that i stopped caring, and yet it still kept hammering the same punishments for the same boring bad behaviour. her cutting off her hair was really satisfying for a reason, and broke the monotony that kirby was apathetic about so i was too. that scene alone should put this point on a "ehhh okay" list but we have none.

- idk that about summarizes it ( )
  Chyvalrys | Aug 5, 2020 |
I Am Not Esther by New Zealand author Fleur Beale is an engrossing story about a modern girl, Kirby, whose mother leaves her in the care of her strict and pious brother, Caleb, who along with his wife and children are members of a Religious Sect called Children of the Faith. This faith is rigidly traditional. Kirby is immediately renamed Esther and forced to wear her hair tied back in a braid. Her clothes are replaced by long skirts, she is forbidden to use slang or take lord’s name in vain. Failure to follow the rules means immediate punishment, which included long hours on her knees and the whole family praying over her. Women were considered to be the property of the men and early marriages were arranged.

Although terribly confused and angry at her mother for leaving her with these people, she does grow very fond of her cousins, and eventually helps the eldest boy, Daniel, make a break with the community. Although her mother was to have gone to Africa to work as a nurse, it is discovered that she never left New Zealand. Kirby needs to find her mother and discover her reasons for leaving and for abandoning her daughter in this way. Kirby also realizes that she needs to get away as she is in danger of losing her own identity.

Well written and mostly believable, I Am Not Esther was an enjoyable YA read. The story flowed easily and although the Children of the Faith are fictional, the ideas and life style they supported seemed real and gave the reader a good idea of how restrictive a cult like this can be. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jan 21, 2020 |
Riley's mother goes away, leaving her with an uncle and his family - family that she has never heard of before. Suddenly she is a member of a strict religious cult living by 'the rule'. She has her name changed and a severe set of social rules imposed on her. There is no TV, radio, newspapers or mirrors and she now has to wear the cult's unusual clothing. A really good insight into the fanatical and downright scary world of cults. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Dec 6, 2019 |
Again, I am fascinated by cults, and this Australian novel was a well-crafted examination of a very unique group. It's a shame that books like this are so hard to come by in the states. ( )
  EmilyRokicki | Feb 26, 2016 |
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To Tim 1946-1998 and to our daughters Bridget and Penny
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I came home from school on the last day of term, and my mother was crying.
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After her mother unexpectedly leaves her with her uncle's family, members of a fanatical Christian cult, Kirby tries to learn what has become of her mother and struggles to cope with the repressiveness of her new surroundings and to maintain her own identity.

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