Title: The Innocent
Author: Taylor Stevens
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Hillary Huber
First line: She moved in a crouch, blade between her teeth, all four limbs connected to the earth.
Goodreads blurb: Eight years ago, a man walked five-year-old Hannah out the front doors of her school and spirited her over the Mexican border, taking her into the world of a cult known as The Chosen. For eight years, followers of The Prophet have hidden the child, moving her from country to country, shielding the man who stole her. Now, those who’ve searched the longest know where to find her. They are childhood survivors of The Chosen, thirty-somethings born and raised inside the cult who’ve managed to make lives for themselves on the outside. They understand the mindset, the culture within that world, and turn to Vanessa Michael Munroe for help, knowing that the only possibility of stealing Hannah back and getting her safely out of Argentina is to trust someone who doesn’t trust them, and get Munroe on the inside.
When I read The Informationist, the first book in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series, earlier this year, not only did I love it, but I was fascinated by the author’s personal story. Taylor Stevens was born and raised in a cult very much like The Chosen. (Check out her web site for links to interviews and more info on her biography.) Her web site said that The Innocent would deal directly with the issue of this type of cult, and so I knew I wouldn’t wait long to read it.
I love the character that Stevens has created in Michael, and was eager to read more of her adventures, but I was even more fascinated by the world of The Chosen that the book describes. It horrifies me to think that there are children being born into cults just like that and never given a chance to experience life outside of that brainwashed, narrow, abusive world.
Even though Michael wasn’t raised in The Chosen, she comes with her own baggage, and that baggage uniquely equips her to take this mission. It’s personal for her, as the child in question is connected to her best friend, Logan. She knows that she is in a bad place, but she can’t tell Logan “no” – and she heads off to South America to hunt for Hannah. Each time Michael takes on a mission, she is unsure as to whether the job will vanquish – or feed – her inner demons.
This second book in the series is just as strong as the first – a feat in and of itself. I will be following this series until the very end, hoping that Michael comes to some sort of healing over her past, but not enough to make her quit doing what she does so well.
Audio notes: Hillary Huber was the ideal choice to narrate The Innocent. Her low, husky voice fits Michael perfectly, and allows her to voice all characters, male or female, believably.