Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Into the Wilderness"

Mandy Hager is an award-winning writer and educator based on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. She has a drive to tell stories that "matter" -- direct, powerful stories with something to say. She won the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Award for Young Adult Fiction for The Crossing, the first book in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy.

Hager applied the Page 69 Test to Into the Wilderness, the second book in the trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 marks a scene between main protagonist Maryam and Joseph, nephew of the evil Father Joshua who controls the people of Onewēre from his ‘Holy City’, a rotting cruise ship that is home to the religious cult Apostles of the Lamb.
... waded in, his hands strategically placed across the parts she feared to see. He squatted down and made his way across to her clumsily on bended knees. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I just needed some time to think.”

He was right next to her now, the water lapping at his shoulders. “You look like a seal,” he murmured, reaching out to tuck stray tendrils of her hair back into her plait. His fingers lingered on her neck, cupping it, his thumb circling the fine curls at its nape.

She could hardly breathe. His hand slid to her shoulder, drawing her around until they faced each other, only a hand’s width of lapping water between them. She knew she should pull away, put distance and propriety between them, yet she couldn’t—couldn’t. It felt as though the tide pressed up against her back to trap her there and she was powerless to intervene.

Never before had she been so conscious of her body. She knew Joseph had glimpsed it when Father Joshua stripped her bare before the entire congregation of the Holy City when she’d first Crossed. But now it really mattered to her, and she felt ashamed. She’d always been so small—Mother Elizabeth’s “te bebi”; she’d been late to get her bloods and was still as lean and lacking curves as a young boy. Would he think her ugly if he saw her now?

The whites of his eyes shone silver as he leaned across the distance, every fraction of an inch heightening her apprehension, until he met her with his lips. All the strength in her legs gave way and she floated up against his chest, nipple meeting tingling nipple with a terrifying recognition as the kiss transformed to something so heated she truly felt that she would burst...
Is this representative of the book? Yes and no! It marks a turning point in the relationship between Maryam and Joseph — the start of a growing love that will complicate the relationships between the four main characters in the book. And it is one of the few happy scenes, a breather in between the hardship and turmoil that they encounter.

It is a relationship that would never have been allowed to blossom on their own island home of Onewēre (a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean). Maryam is a native of the island, Joseph is nephew of the leader of a cruel, blood-thirsty religious sect who raises certain young women (The Chosen) to be either ‘breeders or bleeders’; to serve the Apostles of the Lamb and to, ultimately, die in their service.

What this scene shows, indicative of the whole trilogy, is Maryam’s slow dawning of maturity and understanding, and of the vast differences that have arisen between the subservient native population and the white ruling elite. Her naivety (so carefully nurtured in her childhood to ensure obedient behaviour) is slowly eroded as she fights for her life and comes to understand the intricacies and inequalities of her world.

Perhaps what it most clearly mirrors in terms of the overarching story of the three books, is the power of love — and how love can overcome differences and embolden those in its grip, in order to fight for a fairer, more equitable world.
Learn more about the book and author at Mandy Hager's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Into the Wilderness.

--Marshal Zeringue