Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.
During the Fierce Reads tour kickoff at BookCon, author Jennifer Mathieu said that the ideas for her books come from the extreme things in society that fascinate her. Her most recent book explores the story of Rachel Walker, a teenage girl who has grown up as part of the Quiverfull movement. This is how Jennifer describes the movement on her blog:
Quiverfull families often believe in following strict gender roles, and they regularly turn their backs on the secular world. Quiverfull girls usually don’t cut their hair, wear pants, or go to public school. Everything they read is monitored and they often have to have a chaperone when they go on the Internet or venture out in public. Instead of dating, they court, and they’re often expected to marry relatively young and have a lot of children. Older girls in Quiverfull families take on a lot of the burden of child care, which frustrates some of them. The reason they have such big families is that Quiverfull followers believe that by having a lot of babies, they are helping to spread the message of Christ.
Devoted was a book I couldn’t put down because, like Mathieu, I was so fascinated by this different lifestyle. At times it was difficult to read because my views are very different from those the Walker family holds, but at the same time, I was so curious to see what happened and where those views were taking them that I couldn’t stop reading.
This is the story both of Rachel’s growing disagreement with the lifestyle she has grown up with and her exploration of the outside world. It’s a story of growth and strength and learning to think for yourself. There were many times when I wished I could grab Rachel by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, but I really enjoyed seeing her beliefs and thoughts evolve as she begins to think for herself. Sometimes it felt like one of those car crashes you see coming but can’t stop when Rachel’s parents are controlling her freedom or pushing their beliefs; you can see Rachel’s distress growing, and the escape from that situation just felt inevitable to me.
The supporting characters made Rachel’s adjustment to a new lifestyle enjoyable and realistic. Her friend Lauren provides the support that Rachel needs having already gone through the “escape” from the Quiverfull movement herself. While there is a suggestion of a potential *crush* situation with Mark, his quirky awkwardness and friendship will make you smile, and I appreciated that Rachel didn’t rush into any kind of romantic situation too quickly. The focus is kept on Rachel’s growth, which is how it should be.
Devoted is a book that will make you think and ask questions about so many different things. I loved the line from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day that Rachel keeps coming back to: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” because it made me think about that too. Mathieu is respectful of the religious aspects while allowing Rachel to develop her differing views at the same time. Devoted is not a light read but it’s one you won’t be able to put down.