Cults have often had an air of mystery and secrecy surrounding them. We feel something is rather sinister about them, and wonder how people can be so easily led astray by cult leaders. This is a fascinating look inside a group of people, who wish to live in peace and harmony with the earth and with each other. It is very hard to put this book down as the reader becomes more involved in the story as it unwinds.
We first meet Cassy, a smart, intelligent girl who has almost finished her law degree. She is leaving London to go on a backpacking holiday to New Zealand, with her partner Hamish. She promises her loving parents and younger sister Tara, that she will return in September. The relationship between Cassy and Hamish is a little strained, and after a time together in New Zealand, they are rather fed up with each other. This leads to Cassy accepting a lift in a van with some “Hippies.” She asks if they can drop her off, but they offer free board and meals if she stays with them for a while.
The people Cassy meets could not be kinder or more caring. She finds out that they live in the community of Gethsemane, with over five hundred hectares of New Zealand bushland to care for. They have gardens, forests, permaculture and pastureland. “Our way of life is built upon love in its most simple and yet profound sense, remembering always that we are stewards- not landlords of this earth.” Tired and in need of stability and support, she decides to stay with these warm and welcoming people. She takes on a role as a trainee teacher at their school, and obeys the time constraints that are heralded by bells; peace, kindness, love and hard work in the most beautiful surroundings, sounds like a good way to spend a life time.
Communication is an issue at Gethsemane, no one has a phone, and emails are strictly monitored. Her family are frantic to get in touch with her, and her father, an ex-army sergeant, eventually goes to New Zealand to bring her home. She is rather bewildered, and the group says that her father’s negativity will ruin them all. They manage to bundle him out of the place, and convince Cassy he is wicked, and that he has ill-treated her.
It is so easy to follow the direction that Cassy takes. So much love, a wonderful man has fallen in love with her, and she has a life mapped out with no decisions to make by herself. However, gradually life begins to change and Cassy can’t help but question some actions taken. This is where the novel has been cleverly structured.
After a few chapters, where we get to know the characters, there is a page that is headed,” THE CULT LEADERS MANUAL: EIGHT STEPS TO MIND CONTROL. CAMERON ALLSOP.
STEP 1, IDENTIFY YOUR POTENTIAL RECRUIT”. These steps continue through the book, highlighting the behaviours carried out by the group. This is an astoundingly accurate and explanatory look, at how people come to find a place and self-worth under the umbrella of powerful people.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|