Down from the Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer
Published: 1 March 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company
Genre/s: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Source: Publisher for review
Find it: Goodreads ~ Amazon
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.
Down From the Mountain is yet another 2015 book that had me captivated, but yet strangely unmoved. Reading it was like what I imagine watching a car crash in slow motion would be like – I felt disconnected from the people that were involved, but compelled to keep going, even though at times I’d developed a case of couldn’t’-give-a-fuck-itis.
Eva, at fourteen, has lived for the majority of her life in the compound of the Righteous Path. Led by Ezekiel, with only one other grown male and a bevy of women and small children, they live an isolated life, dominated by prayer and punishment for those who break the increasingly strict rules. It’s only when she is temporarily allowed to leave the confines of the compound when she shows an unexpected flair for jewellery making that she really starts to question how the Righteous Path members really live.
I can completely imagine that some readers would get rather frustrated with Eva – she retreats back to the safety of the commune at every moment, and at times I felt frustrated with her too, but when I stopped to think about it, it was logical. She’s been brainwashed – and the normal human reaction in any uncomfortable or scary situation is to fall back on the familiar, and apart from some patchy early memories, the commune is all she has ever known.
What made Down from the Mountain so addictive to read however, is knowing there’s a crunch time coming, and although it’s obvious quite early on what it is going to be, I was so curious to see how it would play out and Fixmer definitely drew me into the climax of the story.
The reason I felt rather disconnected from the book, however, was the characters. Eva was strong and brave, going against everything she had been taught, knowing the consequences would be dire, and yet I never really felt like I knew her very well. She bonds with one of the other ‘mothers’, Rachel, and yet I never really got to know Rachel, or any other secondary character either. And guys, there is no romance – although for everyone that assumes there is romance just because it’s a contemporary YA novel, this is why we should never assume – because there isn’t one.
Finally, Down from the Mountain ends rather abruptly, and it felt a little awkward to me – everything is a little too neat, despite all the trauma that Eva has been through, and it was just over too quickly for my liking.
Down from the Mountain was an interesting read – there is a lot to think about in terms of the way that human beings can be convinced by others to believe in something, even if it is illogical. An interesting premise that just didn’t quite hook me in.