Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Author: Jimmy Cajoleas
Publisher: Amulet Books (Imprint of Abrams)
Release date: September 10, 2019
Rating: 4/5 Graves
*****Review includes some spoilers*****
Minor Prophets begins with the death of main character, Lee and his sister Murphy’s mother. After a fight with their stepfather, Horace, she speeds off into the night, never to return home. After the siblings find forged legal paperwork in Horace’s trunk, they hightail it to their grandmother’s home. They have never been allowed to see her, and their mother refused to speak of her under normal circumstances. Their grandmother is delighted to meet the two—especially when she learns of Lee’s ability to see visions of the future. Her mood only improves when Lee begins describing visions of her deceased son, a young prophet who had been cut down in his prime, leaving hundreds of followers watching and waiting for his second coming.
This book, although definitely horror, is more homegrown, realistic horror than gory horror. That said, there is one vision Lee has that involves a demon attacking three men that stands out against the rest of the book for its gore. There are a few other scenes of violence here and there throughout the book, but they barely compare to the surprising brutality of Lee’s demonic vision.
The Grave Review
This was a fascinating book to read; I’ve never interacted with anything quite like it. I consume documentary series like popcorns, and quite a few of them have focused on cults. However, these stories are almost always told by outsiders: reporters who had covered major events on or authority figures who were involved with incidents with a particular cult (like the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas), psychologists, or deprogrammed members who have distanced themselves from that life. I’ve never seen the story from the point of view from the person who is falling right into a cult. It also stands out from other real life or fictional stories about cults because Lee really does have the visions, as did his uncle. Lee and Murphy really do have a supernatural connection regarding the visions, as did their mother and their uncle. There really is something supernatural going on.
The book is a convincing take on the indoctrination process, hitting the major “steps” in both Lee’s background and the way things play out. At the same time, while aspects of indoctrination like this are recognizable, Jimmy Cajoleas takes his time to plant the seeds and let these ideas grow and get under both Lee’s and the reader’s skin. Even Lee’s voice and perception of past events changes subtly as the book goes on, and it’s not easy to see those changes at first. As Lee is buying into someone else’s truths, the reader starts buying into Lee’s adopted truths as well. It does become hard to see what the truth is; it is a rare thing to be manipulated so skillfully by a book.
Minor Prophets does have two aspects that don’t feel true, and in a book like this, that really stands out. One was that the ages of the siblings aren’t really given until the very end of the book (unless I missed it), though we know that Murphy is a year or two younger than Lee. Their characters didn’t seem to match up with the birth order, as you would think the older would be the skeptic and the younger would be more naïve, which is very much not the case here. Then again, their backgrounds do differ, and Murphy appears to be more socially competent than her brother. It just didn’t quite gel for me. This is more minor than the reappearance of a character from the beginning of the book who the children view primarily negatively from the get-go, then a positive figure. Because their relationship was negative long before Lee started reassessing his past in a different light, it’s hard to feel really good about this character’s reappearance, even if the hard facts add up in their favor.
The book ultimately ends shrouded in ambiguity, which will keep the story with you for a very long time. It’s a rare ending where the not knowing is better than any confirmation, and, as I’ve said about most of the rest of the book, is true—it’s real. Real life doesn’t end neatly, and Lee’s ability means that a neat ending just wouldn’t be truthful.
I would recommend this book for readers interested in cults or true crime sorts of horror, or anyone with an interest in psychology or sociology. That said, you can definitely go into it blind; I think it is a gripping read either way and accessible for any reader, high school and up.
For the following reasons, Grave Reviews gives Minor Prophets 4 out of 5 Graves.
Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas can be preordered here.
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