Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Family by Marissa Kennerson

The Family
by Marissa Kennerson
Publisher: Full Fathom Five Digital
Release Date: October 8th 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Cult


Just like any average seventeen year old, Twig loves her family. She has a caring mother and a controlling father. Her brothers are sisters are committed to her family’s prosperity…

All one hundred and eighty three of them.

Twig lives in the Family, a collective society located in the rainforest of Costa Rica. The Family members coexist with the values of complete openness and honesty, and a shared fear of contagious infection in the outside world.

So when Adam, their Father, prophet, and savior, announces that Twig will be his new bride, she is overjoyed and honored. But when an injury forces her to leave the grounds, Twig finds that the world outside is not necessarily as toxic as she was made to believe. When she meets Leo, an American boy with a killer smile, she begins to question everything about her life within the Family, and the cult to which she belongs.

But when it comes to your Family, you don’t always get a choice.

The ceremony would begin in less than an hour. Neither girl had a watch nor could see a clock, but they both had an innate sense of time, as did all members of the Family. There was only one clock on the compound. Its face sat impassive and oversized on a small tower in the center of the white, clapboard cottages that served as their living quarters. But they had other ways of knowing the time: the way the sun shone hot and bright at the height of morning or how the air became moist and the mosquitoes started to buzz shortly before dinner was called. The church bells from Turrialba, the city that hemmed the compound in at the foot of the mountain, chimed faintly on the hour until darkness took hold each night.
“Almost done.” Twig took a few steps back and looked over her work. She had laced Rose’s strawberry-blond hair with Lluvia de oro, buttercup yellow orchids that looked like candlelight flickering through Rose’s long, thick locks.Lluvia de oro. Rain of gold. The Family was segregated from the rest of society, but some bits of Costa Rican culture had managed to seep in. The twisting yellow orchid would glow in Rose’s hair in the moonlight. Perfect for a wedding night, Twig thought. Then she felt herself blush. What did she really know about what happened on a wedding night?
She knew a little from their lessons about procreation, but not much else. She imagined Thomas would be kind to Rose. Would her husband, whomever they picked for her, be kind?
“What are you thinking about?” Rose suddenly asked. “You seem far away.”
“I’m sorry. I was. I was thinking about marriage.” Twig was embarrassed that she had been thinking about sex and didn’t want to say so out loud.
Adam’s voice droned on through the intercom in the living room. Confess your sins daily to a sister or brother. Do not try to hide the evil that is inherent in every one of us. I will cleanse you of sin, but you must admit the truth of your nature before I can do that…
“Okay, turn toward me.” Twig gently steered Rose’s shoulders toward her. “Perfect,” she said.
Rose smiled weakly.
“You’re nervous,” Twig ventured.
Even though she and Rose had shared a single bedroom with their mothers for as long as she could remember, they had rarely spent time alone together. There was a slight awkwardness between them.
“I’m okay,” Rose replied, letting out a big breath. “Thomas is amazing. I got so lucky. They could have paired me with Doc!” Both of the girls erupted in nervous giggles, relieving some of the tension.
Doc was a psychiatrist in his fifties, but he served as the Family’s medical doctor. As far back as Twig could remember, if she had a fever or a sore throat or a bee sting, Doc had taken care of it. When she was a child, she had suffered from constant headaches. She had vague
memories of lying in Doc’s office with ice packs on her head. Those were lonely memories she didn’t care to recall. As she got older, her headaches had faded.
Doc was also Adam’s right-hand man. He was nice enough, but now that Rose mentioned it, Twig had never thought of Doc as someone’s husband. He was older than most members of the Family by quite a bit, and while he was nice enough, he always seemed a bit removed. If Twig had to give him a color, it would be gray. A cold blue-gray. Twig loved to give people colors. There was something visceral about them, something pre-speech. Sometimes a person’s color came to her when Twig first met them. Sometimes she had known a person for years and still couldn’t assign them a color.
She turned her attention back to Rose. “Come on. Let’s get you to the mirror, and then I think we’d better get going.”
Rose paused. “It is okay because it is a special occasion, right?”
“Yes,” Twig reassured her. “You aren’t straying. A bride is allowed to look in the mirror on her wedding day.”
Twig led Rose gently by the hand out of the bedroom and into the living area of their cottage. Adam’s voice became louder as they entered the room. The space was not large, but it was bright, and the big stone tiles that made up the floor helped to keep the cottage cool. The south wall had two bay windows that faced the compound and the rainforest that spread out behind it. A dining room table made of blond Cocobolo wood rested against the far wall next to an open kitchen. The rest of the room was sparsely decorated with two handmade wooden armchairs polished to a shine and a white, slipcovered love seat. The only mirror in the cottage was hung high on a wall next to a large framed photograph of Adam. The glass on the frame and the mirror gleamed. Twig had dusted them herself that morning. You never knew when Adam might send someone to make sure the cottage and his photograph were dust-free. It was best to keep the place spotless at all times. An unclean cottage or a dusty photograph meant a verbal lashing in front of the Family.
Twig dragged a chair from the kitchen and helped Rose stand on it in order to see herself. The young bride wore the same white eyelet dress that every woman in the Family wore, but Twig had gotten permission to alter it into a modest strapless gown for the wedding. She had woven the ribbons usually used for their hair into a wide sash that she now tied around Rose’s small waist. Twig taught knitting and sewing classes to the younger brothers and sisters. When it came to anything clothing- or fabric-related, the Family deferred to Twig.
Rose wobbled in front of the mirror, turning this way and that. Twig was glad she couldn’t see her shoes. There was nothing to be done about the shoes. Everyone in the Family wore the same heavy, dark brown hiking boots. They were comfortable, practical, and ugly.
Twig smiled, watching Rose admire herself in the mirror. Despite her small pangs of envy, she was happy for Rose. She could also see why Adam discouraged vanity—it could get out of control. But it was lovely to see Rose smile like this. Rose’s color was definitely pink. Not a cloying pink, but a soft, creamy pink.
“You’re a genius, Twig.”

Guest Post 

I am honored to be here today. Thank you for having me!
Crystal asked me to share some thoughts on cults. In light of the recent tragedy in Paris, I thought it would be appropriate to share some information on brainwashing and how vulnerable EVERYONE can be to cults and their charismatic leaders at one point or another in their lives.

Cults can come in many forms. It is scary how many cults are out there. They might be selling diet pills, salvation or who knows what. Here are some warning signs.
1. A charismatic leader. Someone who may seem really cool, really wise - with all the right answers. This person may seem to "get" you in a different way than others have before. Maybe you feel really special being around them. 
2. The organization or group and their leader claim they have the key to transcendence (in other words - they have the answer to the meaning of life). Stick with them and your problems will be solved. (They might tell you it happens in the afterlife.) They will say it is THEIR WAY OR NO WAY. It might be a soft sell at first - but his will be their bottom line. EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG and JUST DOESN'T GET IT. 
3. They isolate you. This would happen in subtle ways. They point out how your friends and family just don't get it. More and more they MAKE SURE YOU ARE CUT OFF FROM THOSE THAT REALLY DO LOVE YOU AND CARE ABOUT YOU. 
These are huge red flags. If you find yourself involved with people like this - get help. There are organizations. Janja Lalich who wrote the book, Bounded Choice (VERY helpful in my research for The Family) has a great list of questions on her website too for warning signs:
Are you or someone you know at risk for being negatively impacted by a cult? Read the list below to learn about what to watch out for. Then, look at 20 questions to evaluate if a group or leader is truly credible. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
*Someone who becomes overly friendly right away. Instant friendships.
*Person or group who presents easy answers to life’s complex problems.
*Someone who is excessively pushy with invitations to lectures, meals or retreats.
*Someone who tells you it’s okay because look who else is doing it.
*Person or group using guilt to get you to agree to come to something or do something.
*Someone who invites you to a retreat or workshop at another location, could be a hotel or an isolated area, and won’t tell you what is going to happen when you get there.
*Someone who pressures you to make a decision right away and doesn’t give you time to think.
*Someone who turns all your questions back on you or makes you feel there’s something wrong with you for asking the question.
Remember, there are no free lunches, no instant cures, and no easy answers.
So if you ever find yourself in this situation - reach out to a teacher, a friend, your doctor, your mom! 
I hope you enjoy The Family! It's a cautionary tale about cults, but it also very much a story about growing up and finding your own identity.
- Marissa

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Marissa Kennerson received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. Before earning her master’s degree in psychology and art therapy, she worked for Wired and Glamour. She lives in California with her family. The Family is her first novel (Full Fathom Five Digital) and will be coming out October 2014.