Judith has been visiting her mother Stephanie in prison once a month for the last eight years. Hundreds of failed conversations, hundreds of topics avoided. She still can't bring herself to talk about what brought them here - or about Nathaniel, the charismatic outsider whose close-knit religious cult high on the moors destroyed their relationship.
Judith's only salvations lies in the loyalty of Moses, a boy who had never known life outside the cult until the horrifying act of violence that changed everything. But who can she truly believe in now?
Powerful, gripping and impossible to forget, The Followers is a novel about love, hope and identity that asks timely questions. Are we still responsible for our actions if we remake ourselves in someone else's image?
And is there any way back?
The Followers was published by Picador on 21 May 2015 and is Rebecca Wait's second novel. I read the author's first novel; The View on the Way Down back in November 2012 (it was published by Picador in April 2013), and I was totally blown away by her writing. I have thrust so many copies of The View on the Way Down into people's hands and insisted that they read it, I will continue to recommend it to anyone that will listen to me! I was just a little apprehensive about the publication of The Followers, a little worried that the author wouldn't be able to match her first book. I can happily say that Rebecca Wait has done it again, and I'll even go as far as saying that The Followers is even better than her first book, and for me, that's huge huge praise!
The story opens 'After'. After the events that unfurl throughout this incredibly perceptive novel. Judith is visiting her mother in prison. The visit is strained, their relationship is obviously difficult, their conversation is superficial, they never discuss what happened, or why. Judith will return again next month, as she has for the past eight years.
The author then takes us back to 'Before', where the reader meets Judith and her mother as they were. Before the violent and life changing episode that has created the 'After'.
I'm not going to tell the story of The Followers, I'll just say that it is an extremely compelling look at how the most vulnerable can be brainwashed and indoctrinated into believing what another, stronger and totally plausible person leads them to believe.
Rebecca Wait has created a community high up on the Yorkshire Moors that is solitary and lonely, yet secure and rigid. The Ark is the place that Nathaniel has conceived to house his loyal and believing followers. Nathaniel is alluring and charismatic, his followers don't question his ideals, and if they do show the smallest sign of doubt, they will be punished. Punished by Nathaniel, but also by God.
Judith does not trust Nathaniel and rebels from day one. However, her mother, Stephanie, soon falls under his spell. The Ark is so much better than her old life as a struggling single mother, working in a cafe with nothing to look forward to. The community in The Ark will love her and care for her, she feels needed and part of a family, she feels important and special, she is sure that Judith will get used to it.
The Followers is an excellent read. I was totally captivated by it from the very first page. Rebecca Wait writes cleverly and with great authenticity, she gets to the heart of Nathaniel and his followers so well. She describes the control and the manipulation that can only lead to destruction in the end, Whilst the reader can clearly see what is happening, the characters are so cleverly controlled by Nathaniel that they appear blind to his faults.
The wild Yorkshire Moors is almost a character within itself. The author's sense of place is outstanding, she creates the perfect setting for The Followers, living as they do in almost splendid isolation. The winds, the rain, the mist, all complement this story so very well, adding to the tension and the apprehension of what may be to come.
The Followers is written simply, it is incredibly easy to read which only makes it more extraordinary in how brilliant it is. It is gripping, clever, and so brilliantly told. Another triumph for this incredibly talented young author.
My thanks to Francesca at Picador (Pan MacMillan) who sent my copy for review.
Rebecca Wait has been writing for as long as she can remember and has won numerous prizes for short stories and plays.
She wrote The View on the Way Down in the evenings whilst working as a teaching assistant.
The Followers is her second novel.
Rebecca lives in London.
Visit her website www.rebeccawait.com
Follow her on Twitter @RebeccaWait