My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ruby’s little brother, Anton, died in a terrible, family-shattering way – when her drunken father crashed into him with his car. Ruby and her Mum exist in a sorrowful, grey, joyless haze of cigarette smoke and TV dinners – and six months after the funeral things don’t look like they are going to change anytime soon. Well-meaning Aunty Cath turns up to “help” and her loud and bright demeanour forces Ruby into the outside world for relief. This is when she sees Fox, the angelic looking boy who will change her life, for the first time. He hands her a bottle of water and on it is a label: “Boundless Body, Boundless Mind”. Intrigued by this mysterious boy and the cryptic label, Ruby has dinner with Fox and his “family”. Ruby finds herself drawn to these people and their intelligent conversation, revelling in the anonimity and the temporary escape from her grief.
Gradually Ruby starts to tie herself to the Institute of the Boundless Sublime, and when she moves in with them as a Sublimate, her descent begins. I can’t reveal much more, for fear of giving you spoilers. What I will say is that as a twenty year old I read quite a bit about cults – lots of true stories of escape – and this book captures the level of self-talk and rationalisation required to be a “true” devotee really well. It also captures how damaged people can so easily be taken over by such a cult.
Lili Wilkinson has obviously researched well for this novel. It feels like she has lived it – some of the content, the descriptive detail is so visceral I had to stop reading for a couple of minutes to let it sink in. This is a raw, deeply moving and engaging novel. I cared so much about Ruby, about what was happening to her – I wanted to shout out, “No! Don’t do it!” more than once.
There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes too. One particular twist, towards the end of the book, literally made me gasp out loud because I did NOT see it coming at all. I love it when writing makes me do that! I was absolutely gripped by this story, and I will be pushing it into the hands of as many readers as possible.
Dark, terrifying and heartbreaking, this is a novel that reinforces the true meaning of family, and eloquently champions owning everything in one’s life – the good and the bad, the pain and the bliss – because that is what life really is all about.
Recommended for ages 13 and up