The Word / Mary G. Thompson / Book Review


Lisa has been on the run for a decade, ever since she slipped out her bedroom window and ran to her father's waiting car. Lisa is a dutiful daughter who listens to and obeys her father. Her mother can't ever know where she's gone, no matter what the courts might have decided about custody. Her mother can't know, because her mother is dead. According to the Word, at least.

But the American police catch up with everybody eventually. When the cops come and arrest her father, Lisa knows what to do. She's prepared for this Trial her whole life. She has to bow her head, obey the law, and return to her mother to bide her time until she can be liberated again. There's a plan. Everything will be set right eventually.

But even though Lisa knows that her mother is Dead, that this life is sinful and wrong, it actually... doesn't seem as bad as she thought it would be. And the risk, escaping to her father, living on the run again, seems to grow greater every day until she's left wondering what's really wrong after all.



I appreciate so much of Mary G. Thompson's project here... but I just didn't get enough of it. This book feels conflicted in a lot of ways. It doesn't seem to know quite how seriously to take itself, where to go hard and where to pull back. Because it doesn't fully commit, it all comes off as rather bland, even if there's a rather nice twist at the end.


Social Conditioning The social conditioning this poor girl has gone through is unbelievable... and unfortunately so believable. A lot of her internal thoughts, a lot of the rhetoric beat into her as a child, sounds extreme and yet isn't as far out there as most of us would like to believe.

Women Surviving The cult that raised Lisa isn't exactly feminist. These women have it rough, but at the same time, they're resilient. They learn to exist under the rules meant to keep them down. They learn to smile and say one thing while thinking another, and while Lisa hates herself for being so "willful" all the time, this willfulness isn't just hers, and it adds an incredibly vital line of hope throughout this book.

Nuance It can be really hard to see abuse creeping up on you when the abuse is something you just expect to happen. Lisa's mom didn't feel any problem with the cultish lifestyle that she and her daughter were being consumed by... until she realized her other choices had been taken from her. Lisa's mom is complicit in Lisa's own abuse, but she's a victim, too. And this book handles that nuance, that hard gray area, with such care.


As much as I love the nuance in parts of this book, that nuance doesn't come through in all the places that it should. The religion raising Lisa, after all, is kind of one-note. It's just a haven of abuse, a space that relegates women to being uneducated homemakers fully dependent on their men. And while there are certainly religious groups like this, there are also reasons why those women would stay, why they would join up, why they would think or feel this is their calling. And that sort of nuance doesn't come through.One-Note

Lisa's character... gets a bit confused at times. And not in the places the author intends. Lisa keeps going on and on about "putting up with her trial" after she gets taken from her father, but... her immediate reaction to returning to her mother's house is a childish temper tantrum. And that doesn't make sense with her character, with her internal dialogue, or with her upbringing. And it isn't really questioned or examined in the narrative either, so... what? Lisa's characterization sometimes feels unintentionally wonky. Temper Tantrum

I get that Lisa's really wrestling with everything here, and her inner life is supposed to be twisty and complex. But her inner life doesn't feel complex. It just feels contradictory--like you've got Lisa's voice juxtaposed to the "right" or "authorial" voice instead of two (or more) warring sides of Lisa. Lisa's subsequent change of heart doesn't make a whole ton of sense, since she's not internally complex. At least not in a believable way. Quick to Flip



Those who appreciated Jinger Duggar Vuolo's memoir Becoming Free Indeed might like dipping into this world of religious conditioning and women who dare to ask questions. Fans of Amelia Brunskill's Wolfpack will like this innocuous-on-the-surface new cult.


Publisher: Page Street YA
Date: May 21, 2024
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. Even if it wasn't the best book it still has a great cover. Love the retro vibes.

  2. The concept sounds good, but it seems as if it wasn't properly executed.

  3. I don't think I would like this one.

  4. I don't think this one is for me.

  5. When a book starts feeling one-note and the characters aren't consistent to themselves that's usually when I DNF a book. It's too bad this one wasn't better. Cults are always so interesting to read about.

  6. First of all, I'm so glad I came across your blog because I love the way you format your reviews! So clean and straightforward. As for this book - "It can be really hard to see abuse creeping up on you when the abuse is something you just expect to happen." This hit me so hard. Though I get that some books try so hard to be "complex" but just end up being confusing and inconsistent instead. Sorry this wasn't a better read for you!

    aimee @ aimee can read

  7. I think I’ll pass.

  8. This sounds like a very emotional read. Thanks for sharing your review of it.

  9. Interesting. I do wish it had shown both sides as to why some choose this life.

  10. even though you just give lower grade, but your review is interesting.....
    thank you for sharing

  11. The premise of this sounded emotional and powerful so I'm sorry to hear it was a bit one note and bland instead.


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