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Review: Eden Springs, Laura Kasischke

In the early twentieth century, Benjamin Purnell gathered a group of followers dedicated to chastity and remaining young forever, called the House of David.  Together they relocated to Benton Harbor, Michigan, and created a community called Eden Springs.  An amusement park and a house full of young people successfully hid the corruption within, though, until eventually Benjamin Purnell’s lechery and abuse of young women was exposed.  This is a re-imagining of those true events, supported by documentary images and real newspaper clippings about Eden Springs.

I had never heard of Eden Springs before and to be honest I found just the history fascinating and quite disturbing at the same time.  I did have to look it up to fully understand what was going on at first; I really had no idea where the story was going or what had happened with the cult.  But the writing was beautiful and I really wanted to continue, so I perservered beyond the first fifty pages and the story came together.

In essence, the story centers around girls.  One’s death is covered up, a sixteen-year-old buried under the headstone of a sixty-year-old woman.  Another is frustrated with life and longs for openness.  Yet another girl, pregnant, longs for Benjamin Purnell’s touch once again; but all the girls long for him.  Slowly, suspicion grows in the reader and the community as we realize that far too many women are pregnant for a colony about chastity and when rushed marriages take place in order to explain the babies.  Only then do we become aware of what’s happened and why Lena longs so desperately to get away.

If anything, I really wanted more from this book.  The chapters were very short and written in a dreamlike style, as though the girls were living in a haze before the truth was exposed.  Even then, they still longed to see Purnell.  Though the images and newspaper clippings definitely expanded on the story and brought it more to life, I still felt like I didn’t get the appeal of Benjamin Purnell or the cult in general.   I could see how nice it would be to run an amusement park surrounded by luscious fruit trees providing all the money the followers could ever want, but personally that wouldn’t be a draw.

I would definitely recommend Eden Springs to anyone who has heard of the House of David before – it’s just such an interesting story.  The fact that the fiction is backed up by so much genuine history for me really enlivened the book.  I just wish it had been longer!

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from a publicist for review.

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