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July 9, 2024

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Book Reviews, And Author Interviews

Amy Suiter Clarke’s Lay Your Body Down Is Just… Brilliant.

Lay Your Body Down By Amy Suiter Clarke- Summary

Lay Your Body Down by Amy Suiter Clarke Goodreads summary (review below- also see my recent cult book favorites): After Del Walker fled her small hometown and its cult-like church, she vowed never to return. The man she loved, Lars, left her to marry the local golden girl Eve, and their romance is now the focus of Eve’s viral blog espousing the pastor’s conservative philosophy about women and marriage. But six years later, Lars is suddenly killed, and she’s convinced it couldn’t have been an accident.

When Del returns to her hometown for the funeral, she discovers the now mega-church—and the insidious, patriarchal teachings of Pastor Rick Franklin—has grown not only in size but in influence. Eve was clearly discontent in her marriage, despite the carefully constructed “Noble Wife” positivity of her blog posts, and Del knows better than anyone just how far she will go to get what she wants. Del is determined to cut through the church’s lies and corruption to find out who killed Lars—even if it means confronting the religious trauma she’s spent years trying to bury.

Lay Your Body Down By Amy Suiter Clarke- Review

If you’ve been around this site enough, you know my obsession with cult-themed books (Recent Favorites linked here). If you haven’t been around, welcome. Also, I have an obsession with cult books. So why am I mentioning this? Amy Suiter Clarke’s Lay Your Body Down is not a traditional cult book, and I love how Amy Suiter Clarke toes the line between cult and a mega-church gone haywire in scope, sphere, and influence.

She deftly raises the question and has characters mention the word cult several times but leaves it to readers to decide. The Messiah, or “The Mess,” doesn’t have all the markings of a traditional cult. First, you can attend college (although there are colleges preferred by The Mess). Two, you can have contact with people and family that are not a part of The Messiah. Nevertheless, it also has distinct characteristics of a cult- don’t question authority, you know what you need to know, and typical patriarchy structures. Additionally, it takes a bit from Scientology with the confessionals (in Scientology, it is called Auditing). “The Family” members are so afraid of being shunned that they often start making up sins to please their elders.

It transports me back to his office, back to those long sessions recounting every sinful thought or desire I ever had and then making up new ones when <the pastor> demanded more.

With all that in mind, the reader is left to decide if The Messiah is indeed a cult or a church that raises children (and brings in adults) in a strict form of thinking. And does it even matter what label you put on it? Any way you slice it, The Messiah and its leaders are dangerous.

Review

Thank you to Harper Audio and William Morrow for the advanced audio copy of Lay Your Body Down by Amy Suiter Clarke, which releases on June 27th.

When Delilah (renamed Lyla because Delilah was a temptress in the bible) returns home to investigate the death of a former love, she finds that the church she ran from has grown in influence, both over its members and the entire city. Road names have been changed, law enforcement is under its thumb, and everyone is afraid to speak ill of the church.

That isn’t the only social issue tapped into. Amy Suiter Clarke weaves in the definition of sexual abuse, distribution of child pornography, and sexual exploitation. She also nails the long-term trauma that can result from this kind of upbringing.

Lay Your Body Down excels in big reveals and tiny twists and turns from the beginning. They are slid into the plot effortlessly, fitting the story and utterly gripping. This is not a slow-roll thriller. It takes off like a shot from the beginning. It is fast-paced, never letting you go. In between all the suspense lies the emotional distress of different characters, and it is a gut punch. There were a couple of reveals that I had inklings of. But most of the tiny to big climaxes left me speechless.

Lay Your Body Down By Amy Suiter Clarke- Characters

Lay Your Body Down is told in alternating timelines and two Points of View. Eve and Delilah are voiced in both current and past timelines. Usually, I like my thrillers to have severely messed up characters. However, Amy Suiter Clarke has written a cast of likable, if not sympathetic, characters. These characters contrast the monstrosity of The Messiah’s leadership. Granted, Delilah fumbles around a lot in her attempt to investigate Lars’ death. She often jumps to conclusions without any rational reasoning. But it fits the character and her manic need to bring The Messiah down. She may be back to investigate Lars’s demise. But she also has an understandable and obvious obsession with the church.

Amy Suiter Clarke also shines in developing the characters and showing change over time. So many are forever changed (for good or bad) by the end of Lay Your Body Down. But few end where they started. This lends to the believability of the story. Lastly, The Messiah takes on a character-like feel. She utilizes it as a living, breathing, emotional, and consequential person. This goes above and beyond what it could have been left in another author’s hands.

Lay Your Body Down By Amy Suiter Clarke- Final Thoughts/Audiobook

I covered everything I really loved about Lay Your Body Down above. However, I want to take a moment to commend the audiobook production. It could get easily confused between the two points of view and multiple timelines. Because of how well-labeled the chapters are, this is not the case. Everything remains clear. The narration of the audiobook is also phenomenal.

 

 

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