Monday, 16 March 2015

Seed by Lisa Heathfield

Description from Goodreads

All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.

At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S’s companion. She feels excitement... and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community — particularly the teenage son, Ellis — only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. 

Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a cult book before. I’ve seen movies and heard stories about these horrifying cults, which always have the charismatic leader who (without remorse) brainwashes the other members. Seed definitely belongs to the category of terrifying stories. Some of the customs and beliefs surrounding the cult were so unbelievable and disturbing that it was difficult to put the book down (yet difficult to read, ironically) – you just wanted to know more about how these people were lead to believe in the ideology the leader, Papa S, preached. While the book was shocking and interesting at face value, I’m afraid I didn’t fall in love with it. It was entertaining (if that’s acceptable to say) and definitely wasn’t boring, but I’m afraid that without the cult element, the book wouldn’t have had anything else interesting in it. 

Like already mentioned, the customs of the cult were quite something else. This small, closed community believed that all that Nature had created was good, while everything that a man had designed was evil. So, the community had isolated themselves from the outside, depending on themselves and Nature when it came to food, clothing, and relationships. Of course, the creep Papa S was, he had a harem of women, which he kept to himself, calling them his Companions. Every once in a while he changed his Companion to another woman (or girl) in the community – they shared their time, thoughts, and bed together. I, believing in the absolute equality between women and men, was absolutely disgusted and appalled by this Companion system (like intended), Papa S being the single object of adoration and the source of acceptable behaviour, as the women of the community served him. 

I loved the fact that the main character, young Pearl, (and as strange as this may sound) was na├»ve as they come. The fact that Pearl believed every word that came out of Papa S mouth and how Pearl was dedicated to Seed, allowed the exploration of Seed to become a more intense experience for the readers – Pearl was swooned and impressed by all the disgusting habits of Papa S and ardently believed that Seed was a heaven on Earth. The ignorance and innocence of Pearl makes the reading occasionally difficult as you can see how the cult is taking advantage of her and the other members. Of course, when some outsiders come to join their seemingly peaceful and harmonious community, Pearl gradually starts to question whether Seed really is the place where she wants to spend the rest of her life.

While I liked the characters okay, Pearl, Papa S (one of the outsiders), and Kate had the most impact on me. Pearl through her innocence, and frankly her gullible nature, made a different main character and so a different view of the world from the readers'. Papa S, of course being this seemingly nice old man ends up being a vicious and cruel one, made the hair on my arm stand up. Kate, on the other hand, is rebellious and curious which naturally attracts attention and disapproval within the community. I liked all their complex personalities, yet, all the other characters ended up being flat to me. I was really sorry to realise this as I felt that due this, the book didn’t have the depth I was expecting it to have. Characters like Elizabeth (one of the women of the community) and Jack (Pearl and Kate’s best friend) had so much potential, but for me, they ended up being just fillers within the story.

One other thing that I briefly already mentioned; without the cult element the book wouldn’t probably have floated at all, at least for me. While I know that the cult was the heart and the brain of the book, I wish it wasn’t the liver, kidneys, lungs, and the intestines too. The cult element was absolutely fascinating and interesting to read about, but without it, I probably wouldn’t have liked the novel. I wished that there was some other substantial and touching element, which would have floated the story. But alas, no. I think the author tried to include another fundamental, carrying element, but I’m afraid that it didn’t succeed very well. As Seed is a part of series (to my best knowledge), there will be other elements introduced later on, but I just wished there was already something else, something other substantial element, in the first book. 

Seed was an interesting, sometimes disgusting (in a "good" shocking way) read with a mix of characters who earned my respect while others lost it before they said the very first words. The ending was absolutely unexpected and definitely made my eyes all watery. However, I think that Seed would have worked as a stand-alone too. In a way, I wish it was a stand-alone because of the open-ended ending. Actual rating 3.5.

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