Down from the Mountain - Elizabeth Fixmer

Eva just wants to be a good disciple of Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she's among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekiel, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder--a purpose she'll serve until she becomes one of Ezekiel's wives. But a college student named Trevor and the other "heathens" she meets on her trips beyond the compound are far different from what she's been led to believe. Now Eva doesn't know which is more dangerous--the outside world, or Brother Ezekiel's plans…

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From the age of five, Eva -- along with her birth mother -- has lived on the compound of the religious cult Righteous Path in Boulder, Colorado. Her childhood has been strict but not completely unpleasant overall.. but now as a teen Eva has started noticing things that leave her confused and concerned. The group's polygamist leader, Ezekiel, has fervently started stockpiling guns, insisting every Righteous Path member down to the young children has shooting lessons. Ezekiel himself begins to show increasingly elevated levels of paranoia. His generally calm, generous demeanor flips to much more of a trigger temper, beating the children members of RP with more frequency over the most minor infractions, things such as simply stumbling over reciting a bible passage. Stirring up his ire even more, Ezekiel gets word that a man has been spotted just outside the compound gates -- possibly a reporter -- asking questions about Righteous Path. Ezekiel immediately instates a 24 hour lockdown on the whole compound until further notice.

 

The group's largest source of income is from the selling of handmade jewelry to the "heathens" (non-RP members) at market stalls downtown. Eva gets special notice from Ezekiel for her jewelry making skills, even hears rumors that she might be slated to be his next wife. 

 

There's also been a noticeable shortage of food. For some time, Ezekiel has been disguising the shortage by calling for more and more religious fasts, but Eva learns the painful truth when she finds her mother becoming seriously undernourished during her pregnancy. Eva, under Ezekiel's rule, is not allowed to show special attention to her birth mother but instead must acknowledge all the women as RP as her mother. Still, Eva coverts finds ways around this rule and with the help of "heathen" Trevor, finds ways of stockpiling money and food supplies to help out not only her birth mother but also other members of RP who have shown signs of malnourishment from the food shortages (some of the women in the group even going months without any menstruation). 

 

To add to her new, confusing feelings, Eva begins to have memories of her life before becoming a member of Righteous Path, memories that included a biological father and a love for libraries, and specifically a love of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles Of Narnia. She once had a copy of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, but unfortunately, Ezekiel put a ban on the reading of any fiction, so she had to relinquish her copy. Still, she revisits the world of Narnia in her dreams and begins to see correlations between that novel and what's going on in her own life. These dreams help her slowly work out what she needs to do to save herself and those she loves. 

 

If you're a fan of the works of Ted Dekker, I found similarities between this book and Dekker's book Water Walker (Book 2 in the Outlaw series, if you don't count the prequel Outlaw), which also largely takes place on the compound of a cult. Some scenes are really similar, in fact. There wasn't quite as much suspense or mystery in Down From The Mountain as I was hoping... I was left feeling like this was a good start... but something about the characters felt a little underdeveloped. Still, the novel was far from being a disappointment. I liked seeing Eva grow as she gradually learned to tap into her inner strength. She discovers the power in learning to take control of her thoughts and memories. She also begins to see just how much more precious memories, experiences and education are than any amount of physical possessions could ever be. Just with that little bit of Eva's personal growth, combined with her friendship with "heathen" Trevor (who actually gives her a crash course in religious tolerance / friendship & acceptance without stipulations), I can comfortably recommend this as a worthwhile read. 

 

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Note on the author: Author Elizabeth Fixmer is a psychotherapist who has worked with clients who have left or are attempting to break away from a cult. Her experiences with those cases, in part, inspired this novel. You can read more about it in an interview with Fixmer HERE