On Elise Friedman's eighth birthday, she lost her mother and any connection to her mysterious past. Raised by her loving stepfather, Elise has spent years trying to learn the truth about her mother, Catrina, and her birth family in Germany, but still knows very little. Now a young woman in college, Elise is traveling to her homeland of Germany to uncover her family's past, but what she finds is much more harrowing than she ever suspected.
Melanie Dobson's book--the first I have read by her--is a little novel that packs a major punch. I don't normally buy novels this short because I can finish them so fast, but the intricacies of the plot, as promised on the back cover, convinced me. Elise is a tenacious, likeable young woman, and Carson is a perfect search partner for her, Secondary charactera Sara and Addison are well-drawn too, and at times, are more intriguing than Elise. Melanie has clearly done her research on cults and toxic religion, because those scenes are both touching and at times, downright scary. In fact, although I usually don't notice description that much, Melanie's succinct, vivid style carries the whole book. She also does a great job with dialogue, especially Elise and Carson's discussion of Katrina von Bora's life (I would have liked to see more of that). This book is definitely for adults only, but that audience will find this to be a gripping read.
The Black Cloister falls in the category of "disturbing but good." Disturbing because cults exist, and innocent people are taken in by them...children are raised by them. The book is good for many other reasons: Dobson's excellent storytelling kept me up much too late, and left me drifting to sleep feeling I was in a small town in Germany. Characters are well-developed and believable. And the book leaves you with hope for anyone who seeks truth.
Melanie weaves another spellbinding tale in The Black Cloister. The reader learns, through parallel stories, about Elise's search for her mother's past and Sara's search for truth and love within the hostile walls of a cult in Germany. The story intensifies to such a degree that I felt I was swimming underwater at times, trying to come up for air. And then Melanie grants us a refreshing pause, a reprieve from the gripping suspense. That is - until the tension builds agains. She artfully brings her characters to the supreme moment of life and death, and then culminates her story with one of the warmest endings for a book that I've read in a long time. God's love shines throughout the story as He makes "all things work together for good." This is a gripping page-turner that absolutely no one should miss.
I couldn't put it down - I read it start to finish during my kids naptime. Addresses a sad reality to the truth of child prostitution in our world, as well as the darkness that lies in the midst of twisted lies from truth. Definitely a good, make you think read! Melanie is really good at writing about hard things in life to overcome, and giving understanding to how people end up in hard situations to begin with.
This brilliantly written novel is sure to educate and inspire readers. The insight Dobson demonstrates regarding the minds of cult leaders and their victims is incredibly accurate. In fact, this is the by far best book I've read that addresses this important issue. I've worked with abused children and pedophiles for nearly two decades and the way perpetrators view the world is clearly skewed by their own twisted desires. The author brings that out in The Black Cloister and shows why women stay in situations that are obviously abusive and why they often don't tell anyone who can help them get out. Dobson weaves a powerful and emotionally gripping tale that at times was so suspenseful that I would rather read the story than eat or sleep. The conclusion is also satisfying as it shows the power of true Godly love and how truth is more powerful than evil when you cling to His promises and minister to His children. I would love to read a sequel to this story.