Please welcome Marie Hanes! She will be contributing to Reads & Reels from time to time and we are so happy to have her!
Marie Hanes, (a fancy-pants author writing under a pseudonym) puts on her “Reviewer” cap to share her thoughts on The Reformation of Marli Meade.
The Reformation of Marli Meade (Release Date: December 1, 2016)
Born and raised on an isolated Appalachian mountain, sixteen-year-old Marli Meade yearns to break free from her father’s puritanical church, but fears its cult-like clutches are so deep she may never escape.
When she meets local boy Nate Porter, though, she realizes the life she craves—to be a normal teenager—is worth fighting for, even with the grave and deadly risk that fight would entail.
As her two worlds collide, exposing buried church secrets more sinister than she imagined, and unknown facts about her mother’s death, Marli must decide if she has the courage to fight for her future or if time has run out on her chance to live.
Run, Marli. Run.
I looked at the house. My skin itched with the urge to flee, to run far away—from the church, from Edna and Charles, from home. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t quit running. Ever.
I looked down the road at the snaking dirt path that led toward town, then up toward the top of the mountain that was covered with thick, ancient trees, their tops encased in heavy fog. I scanned the entire area, so thick with forest it was impossible to see any real distance, all while searching for the best escape route.
Run, Marli. Run.
The idea seemed so far out of reach, I almost laughed. But then, I didn’t.
Marli Meade is the only child of Charles, the preacher and leader of the scary and dark Church on the Mountain, situated on a bleak mountainside in the Appalachians. Her life is a grim cycle of church, prayer, and bullying at the local high school, where she’s picked on for her clothes, her hair, her life. Her home life is a misery of harsh neglect and emotional abuse at the hands of her taciturn father and his frightening mother, both of whom detest the title character and are determined to cleanse her of her many, nebulous sins, foremost of which seems to be that she was born looking like her dead mother
Into this situation comes Nate Porter, a breath of relative normalcy, though he carries his own emotional baggage in the form of an absent mother, an abusive brother, and a neglectful and ignorant father
When the book begins, Marli has already reached her emotional limit, feeling that there must be more to life than this miserable, horrifying existence, of being married off to a member of the church and living in its horrifying shadow for the rest of her life. In Nate, she finds romance, solace, and companionship, and begins to see that there might be an escape from her present circumstances.
The author, Tracy Hewitt Meyer, uses evocative imagery involving local plant life and snakes to set the mood, drawing thereader into Marli’s dreary world. It’s a grim life, with elements of the horrifying, and very little to alleviate the feeling of impending doom. There are brief flashes of “normal life” when she attends the local high school, but even there, one is reminded of the title character in Carrie, of how out of touch and attacked she felt, pretty much on a constant basis
There are moments of high tension, when the reader is pulled along, wondering what’s coming, and we do root for her; no one could read this and not want things to change for her
There are revelations regarding Marli’s mother, and the history of the Church which give the story a satisfying climax and ending. The author paints a vivid and stark picture of life in Appalachia
A little more character development would’ve made this an even more satisfying read; though the story is told in the first person POV, she is more acted upon by events and people around her, and she is revealed to us by her responses more than her actions. Even the decisions she made seemed to be more of the knee-jerk kind that anyone in her position would make, and less related to who she was, which wasn’t as clear as this reader would have wished. A little more of the romance would have been a nice palate cleanser as well, a nice counterbalance to the darkness of the world so graphically portrayed