Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: 'Free to Be Tegan' by Mary Grand

Welsh author worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught Deaf children in Croydon and Hastings, but now writes her books from her home on the Isle of Wight. She has published a collection of short stories, CATCHING THE LIGHT, and now publishes her first novel of what we can hope will be a series set in Wales.

With cults still a very significant presence today it is fascinating to read a novel that explores not only the concept of cults but also the people who seemingly relinquish their individuality to belong to these strange groups. Some of these cults in existence are well known (names withheld) but here are many such gatherings that go all but unnoticed by the general public.

Mary offers us the flavor of the inside of her cult in the opening lines: ‘‘You have chosen the path of darkness.’ Tegan stood on the wooden stage in front of the Community, determinedly staring at the digital clock at the back of the room. 0730. She waited for the dull click. The numbers flipped. 0731. In the cold, bare meeting room, a shaft of light from the London spring morning crept in through one of the high windows. ‘You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting’ continued Daniel. He stood to her right, at the other end of the stage, his hard voice echoing off the peeling cream emulsion walls. She didn’t dare look at him. The room was silent. Tegan, unblinking, waited. 0732. ‘You have chosen the sinful pleasures of the Domain of the Beast. You have grievously sinned against The High One and this Community. You refuse to repent, to curse and reject all that is of the world.’ She heard him pause. Even now he was waiting, seeing if she would break.’

The offered synopsis outlines this terrifying story: ‘Tegan, aged twenty seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and from the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and na├»ve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains. This is the uplifting story of her journey from life in a cult to find herself and flourish in a world she has been taught to fear and abhor. Guilt and shadows from her past haunt her in flashbacks, panic attacks and a fear of the dark. However she also finds a world full of colour, love and happiness she has never known before. The wild beauty of the hills, the people she meets and the secrets slowly revealed by the cottage all provide an intriguing backdrop to Tegan’s drama in a story set in spring, a story of hope, new growth, of the discovery of self and the joy of living.’

Strong writing, insights, and secrets most of us do not understand flow form the pages of this readable novel. Grady Harp, May 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.