Today I am hosting my first virtual book tour. The book is Section 132, by Helga Zeiner, and is part of a tour organized by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. At the end of this post, after my review, I will be offering one e-book copy of Section 132 in a Rafflecopter giveaway that is open to all.
Publication Date: July 1, 2011
Lillian grows up in an American fundamentalist Mormon sect which still practices polygamy. At thirteen she is forced by her father to become the child-bride of a Canadian Bishop. His compound is located deep in the wilderness of British Columbia, totally isolated from the rest of the world. Lillian wants out, but rebellion against her omnipotent husband is dangerous. When the land developer Richard Bergman buys the property next to the Bishop’s compound, he gets drawn into the sect’s secret. After discovering the true nature of his neighbor’s clandestine dealings, Richard is confronted with his own moral shortcomings and has to make some serious life-choices which affect everybody involved.
Read an excerpt:
Martha knew the Bishop was coming for her. His boots stomped toward the office, and when he unlocked the door, she moved back to the opposite wall, trying to melt into it. The room was only about ten feet deep, and he was threateningly close as soon as he had entered. She saw the gun strap slung over his shoulder. Marion was beside him, her face still wet from crying, but already setting into a mask of acceptance and denial. Empty eyes buried in a stone hard expression. With only minimal movement of her body, she looked like a motionless statue, placed there only as an accessory to her husband, an extension of his wrath, coming alive only to cater to his demands. For the moment, he needed nothing of her except to observe him in all his glory as the executor of the faith.
Martha was not scared of him, but she was terrified of the unknown. What cruelty had he planned for her? Would she have to suffer long? It would be easier to bear if she knew what to expect.
She didn’t have to wait long.
“Get out of here, you worthless piece of shit!” he snapped at her. He slipped the gun strap off his shoulder and casually swung the hunting rifle in front of his massive torso like a trophy. “Here, see this! Fear this! It is the Lord’s instrument of vengeance. He has appointed me to be his executioner. Commanded me to exterminate filthy vermin like you. Get out, you slut, so I can punish you for your sins!” He came closer, lowered the weapon and prodded her thigh with the tip of the rifle. Martha jumped sideways and was forced to move forward and slide past him to the door.
He directed her with his weapon. “Bitch! Out with you! Outside! We don’t want a mess in here. Out you go, you miserable creature! I’ll show you who your master is. Move it, bitch, don’t drag your feet.”
Martha moved a little faster. She was numb, didn’t even feel herself walking past Marion who remained grotesquely frozen in her stance.
The Bishop kept pushing her forward, down the hallway, to the back entrance of the house. “Go, go, go. Let’s have a little target practise. You’d better move a bit faster, or it won’t be fun at all. Outside you go.”
He pushed her through the back door and out into the yard. “When I count to three, you run. If you make it over there, I’ll let you live. The Lord will decide.”
The distance from the house to the trees was much larger than she remembered. But it didn’t matter; he would get her anyway. Best to go slow, otherwise he might miss and only injure her.
Martha took a deep breath. He slammed his rifle painfully into her back. She nearly lost her balance.
She forgot her resolution to be an easy target and instinctively started to run.
She ran as fast as she could, trying to get away from his horrible ‘eeeee’. She practically flew over the ground, driven by her survival instinct, until she stumbled, lost her balance and fell face down on the ground. A sharp slash whipped viciously through her whole body, ripping her insides apart. She was surprised to hear herself groaning, although the excruciating pain of a moment ago subsided into shocked numbness. He had not finished her! Mixed into her total confusion of being shot at, lying on the ground and not feeling any pain, was the realization that something did not fit into the whole scenario. Something did not make sense. She had heard him counting and his final endless, blood curling “eeeeeeeee” still rang in her ears. She was on her knees now, slumped forward to steady herself with her hands, and turning sideways to look behind her.
He was also on the ground, holding his side with one hand, the rifle lying next to him. His “eeeeee” had evaporated into a whimper. At the same instant Martha saw the shape of a woman running away from him. Nothing but billowing skirts in a hasty retreat, impetuously heading for the protection of the trees. Anna! Already she had reached the trees. A safe haven for the fleeing Anna; as it would be for her, if she could reach it before he recovered from the injury Anna had inflicted on him. He was already shaking his head like a wounded bear, groaning in an effort to get the nasty foreign object that incapacitated him out of his flank. Martha did not see what had injured him so badly that the air had been knocked out of his lungs, but it must have weakened him considerably. He was wheezing, coughing and gurgling in his angry attempts to regain his stability and was slowly steadying himself.
If only she had not been hurt – if only she could reach the cover of the forest before he recovered from the surprise attack. She forced herself to try and scramble to her feet, surprised that she was still in one piece and not cut into two like she had thought. Where did it hurt? Even more surprised, she realized that she was not hurting at all. Her brain finally solved the mystery that had puzzled her before. No shot had been fired! On his last count she had only heard his scream but no shot – no bullet had been flying in her direction. She had stumbled and fallen, that was all. The pain had been imaginary.
By now her legs were firmly on the ground, holding her weight, and she started to run. She looked back once and increased her efforts to reach the tree line when she saw that he was already on his knees, groping blindly for his weapon. She literally flew across the yard, her skirt bunched up high, with her feet barely touching the ground. The forest. The trees. There they were. She ran past the first few trees, getting deeper into the woods before she pressed herself behind one wide trunk, panting heavily. She dared to look back. He was nowhere to be seen. He had moved. Where to? She knew her panting was too loud, but she could not stop it, her lungs were screaming for oxygen.
It was mercifully dark in the forest, but he only needed to follow the wheezing sounds she made to find her. Anger welled up inside her. She wanted to live! Why hadn’t Anna finished him! She must have been too weak. If only she had a weapon. The frustration of being so helpless made her even more angry. I will fight him, she thought. This time, I will scratch his eyes out before he can hurt me again. Martha slid down the tree trunk until she cowered on the wet cold ground, making herself as small a target as possible. She concentrated on the sounds of the night. He was injured and furious, he would not approach like a seasoned hunter but would storm through the darkness in search of her. When she heard him coming, she could hide or run away from him. She wasn’t quite sure what she would do, but this time she would not make it easy for him.
About the author, Helga Zeiner:
Helga Zeiner is a Canadian and German citizen
At the age of 18, Helga completed her arts degree at the Art School of Bavaria, and then left Germany.
She lived and worked for two years in Australia, and twelve years in Hong Kong.
Since 2004 she has lived with her husband Manfred in the wilderness of British Columbia, about 5 hours north of Vancouver. There they own over 500 acres which they have developed into a gated cabin community, the Rainbow Country Estate.
For as long as she can remember, Helga has been writing novels, usually in her spare time. Today most of her time is devoted to writing, but she also manages the land development company, is politically active, enjoys outdoor sports and loves smoking cigars.
AUTHOR SITES: Website, Facebook, Twitter
My review (as posted on GoodReads):
Section 132 by Helga Zeiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. I volunteered to review it as part of a virtual tour and hoped that it would at least be an enjoyable read. As it turns out, it is a very enjoyable read.
It took me a little while to get into the book. At first I thought it a little slow, but on reflection the early pace was dictated by some well detailed character development, which helped immensely as the book progressed. The further I got into it, the less I wanted to put it down. It is, as described in some of the tour info, quite a page turner. I don’t believe in giving away too much of the story in my reviews, so this one will be no different.
The story has some strong characters from worlds that are almost worlds apart, but similar in that they are controlled by situations almost beyond their control. On one side there is wealthy property developer, who is a kind of self-made millionaire. He finds himself at the mercy of a government official who could put make his latest land project almost impossible to bring to completion, making him bankrupt. On the other side there is a young teenage girl, who has been raised in a strict fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church, and now finds herself trapped in a polygamous marriage that she had no choice in being a part of, as well as feeling major doubts about what she really believes. The characters collide because the developer’s project borders with the fundamentalist compound in which this girl is trapped.
I don’t know too much about the Mormon religion, and less still about some of the breakaway fundamentalist groups. What I do know is that there is danger when people get, or take, too much power and use this to manipulate or add their own interpretation to any sacred text to suit their own agenda or to increase their own power. This is demonstrated well in another of the strong characters in this book, the leader, or self-proclaimed ‘bishop’, of the compound that is at the centre of this story. What is scary, upon reflection, is that this story has, according to the author, some basis in fact.
As this story moved towards its conclusion it took a number of interesting and unexpected turns. The ending definitely could not be described as predictable, which is something I really liked while reading it.
I have no problem in recommending this book, but I do so with a cautionary note. Some may find the way in which the life and events of the religious compound are described to be a little disturbing and for this reason may not be able to complete the book. I actually think that if this is the sort of thing that really happens (and I don’t doubt that it is), then we should be disturbed by it and people or groups who behave in this manner should not be allowed to hide behind the ‘rights’ of religious expression. However, that is a debate for another time and, perhaps, a different forum.
Putting aside this caution, this is a book worth reading. It will keep you guessing to the end, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out how it all turns out.
The author has generously offered a free e-book copy of her book for me to give away. This is open to everyone. So, please click on the following link, which will take you to the Rafflecopter form and best of luck to all:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This post is part of a tour organized by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. Please click on the picture below for details of other tours and how you can become a host:
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.