Title: After the Fire
Author: Will Hill
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
No. of pages: Hardcover, 432
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
Date Read: May 8, 2019
The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.
Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything-and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.
But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.
Then came the fire.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcefire Books for approving me for this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve had this book for a while and I just now had the time to get to it and I WISH I had gotten to it sooner. The description alone had me intrigued. But, once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.
After the Fire follows what happens after a religious compound on the edge of a Texas town erupts in flames. The survivors: all children. Moonbeam and a handful of others are all that’s left of the Lord’s Legion. While in the government’s care to help the children cope and learn that things are different outside the fence that they grew up in, Moonbeam and the others face many challenges. Most of all, coming clean about what really happened behind the fence, understanding the guilt that some of them feel, and understanding that some of the events that happened were abuse. Moonbeam, most of all, is afraid that what she knows could destroy her or the other children. Under the care of a kind nurse, psychologist, and FBI agent, Moonbeam comes to terms with what happens to her, and gains freedom from her secrets and freedom for the other survivors.
What intrigued me the most about this book was the perspective that it was in: a minor’s account of survival from a cult. My senior year of high school, I took a class called Everyday Law and we studied the criminal justice system and some of the most high profile cases that were also some of the most notable. One of our sections in the class was on cults, most notably Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate. I was intrigued then because I didn’t understand how a group of people could become so under the influence of one person that they would agree to murder themselves. I couldn’t understand why they would agree. But this book helped just a bit. Moonbeam’s story was one that was hard to read, not because of the level of difficulty, but because she described people’s infatuation and belief that a human was equal to God. That the words and rules that he put forth was as equal to what was in the Bible. It broke my heart reading about the abuse, the training, the rules that were put forth in order to control these people, and the fact that the main leader got away with all of it. My heart was broken, for the children that were left behind, that these messages were so ingrained in. That they had to learn, very abruptly, that the world that they had known was gone and was wrong on so many levels.
It was hard reading the flashbacks that Moonbeam would tell Doctor Hernandez and Agent Carlyle. But, it was necessary. Even though this story is a work of fiction, it was based off a true story (the Waco Siege) and there are other cults in history that were just as bad. I’m thankful that Hill wrote this story. It gave a voice to those haven’t been able to have one throughout the years. It was truly one of survival and I’m glad that these characters that survived were able to go on in their lives. I’m glad that this one, though a work of fiction, was one that let me hope these children could have better lives. After the Fire is haunting and a true story of survival. It was one that didn’t sugar coat the bad, but also acknowledged that not everything is good or acceptable. It showed that even the darkest events happen, but they’re something that can be overcome. I’m so glad that I had a chance to read this and I know that this will be one that I pick up again and again.