Tuesday, 2 February 2021

REVIEW - THE PROJECT BY COURTNEY SUMMERS

 

Title: The Project
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: Wednesday Books, St Martins Press
Genre: Mystery, Thrillers, Teen & YA
Release Date: 2nd February 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo's sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there's more to the group than meets the eye. She's spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what's real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn't know if she can afford not to.


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REVIEW
It was the blurb that had me writing this one at the top of my Want To Read Wishlist. I find different cultures and religions fascinating. I love reading about the Amish, Cults, Polygamists and others that have different ways of life.

The two quotes within the blurb made this one stay firmly at the top of my Wishlist, “The Unity Project saved my life”, The Unity Project murdered my son” really made me want to find out how the same group could have someone saying that it saved their life, yet someone else say they had murdered their son. I felt the need to find out which of these statements was the truth.

One of the books main characters is Lo Denham, who works as a personal assistant for Paul Tindale, the owner of SVO magazine who is known for his no-nonsense reporting that gets to the truth no matter what. He isn’t afraid to go after a difficult story, and has a reputation of not being dissuaded or being paid off. Lo’s dream is to be a journalist and it always has been. Sure, she is getting Paul’s morning coffee, and handling his diary but she feels she is only that one small step from being a journalist. Lo’s older sister by 6 year is Bea and the other main character. Bea had to grow up quickly when their parents were killed in a car accident. Lo is in hospital attached to so many machines by different tubes etc, that the hospital is preparing Bea for the strong possibility that her sister will die. Bea is distraught and finds herself praying & begging for her sister’s life in the hospital chapel. Bea is willing to bargain anything and everything for her sister. That is where she meets a young man called Lev Warren. Lev goes to Lo’s bedside with Bea and they pray and miraculously Lo regains consciousness and it isn’t long before she is discharged from hospital. It seems like Bea’s bargaining with God and the man who she see’s as representing him Lev Warren has worked. Now she must keep up her end of the bargain and devote her life to The Unity Project. When Lo is released from hospital Bea takes her to their Aunt Patty’s and goes off to make a life of her own and repay her debt or keep good on her deal with God and Lev Warren. Lev preaches Gods word and runs the Unity Project. As Lev claims to be and acts as a vessel for God’s word and work.

The book then slips to the “present day” and Lo witnessing a young man called Jeremy commit suicide. Jeremy’s father is a friend of Paul Tindale’s and is quite vocal about saying it is the Unity Project that drove his son to taking his own life. This happening just re-ignites Lo’s wish to see her sister Bea. Lo has tried numerous times to talk to her sister over the years but has always been pushed away by a woman named Casey who is the spokesperson of The Unity Project. Many stories have been done about the Unity Project but no one has ever seemed to truly get to the bottom of exactly what is going on. The Unity project has properties and seems to have no shortage of money or supporters. The leader Lev Warren repeatedly says he is doing Gods work, that there is nothing going on, his people are free to come and go as they please.

After years of trying to meet up with her sister Lo is shocked when she receives an offer of doing a tell all type of interview with Lev Warren. Whenever Lo comes into contact with any of Lev’s followers they all seem to have heard about her and recognise her, Lo presumes it is the scar she carries on her face from the car accident all those years ago, so it appears that Bea has talked about her. It’s not long before it is revealed that they all know about Lo as she is Lev’s miracle, that they are being led to believe that Lev brought her back to life by being a channel for God.
Lo keeps her access to The Unity Project quiet as she wants to write an article and kind of surprise Paul with the exclusive story.

This book has so many layers and so much going on. I know this may sound a little corny and cliché but as a reader you really do go on the journey to the truth alongside the main character Lo. Initially she is more interested in gaining access to her sister Bea, however she ends up being pulled further and further into the whole ethos of the Unity Project and falls heavily into the doctrine being preached by Lev Warren. In fact, she ends up falling in love with him as well as his cult.

As I said there are so many peoples own stories running along as well as their relationships with The Unity Project. I guess the easiest way of categorising those in the book are those pro the Unity Project and those anti the Unity Project.
We have Bea, Casey, Foster and Jeremy who all totally believe in Lev Warren. Then there’s those that are anti the Unity Project, Paul, Lauren from SVO magazine, Arthur, Jeremys father and Rob who seems to be the only person to have successfully left the Project. So where does that leave Lo? Lo begins extremely anti Unity Project, blaming them for taking away her sister, but then she is told that Bea has left the Project meaning if it had been them that had been standing in the way of the sisters reuniting then Bea would have contacted her. The Unity Project further besmirch Bea’s name and character by revealing she has a daughter that she left behind. Naturally Lo wishes to meet her niece, and becomes close to Emmy whilst she is interviewing Lev. It’s not long before Lo begins to see the goodness her sister saw in The Unity Project but then she feels like there is something just “off” the Bea that Lo knew would have never left her daughter behind, would she? I don’t want to give away any more of the actual plot so I will stop there.

My favourite character was Lo, she just wouldn’t give in, and when she thought there was something “not quite right” she continued digging and digging until she found the truth. Lo really goes through a lot in this book. I was desperate for her to have a happy ending, to be reunited with her sister, to have a life with her niece Emmy in it.
Another character I liked was Foster, though I can’t say too much about him without giving away spoilers. Then there are always the characters that you adored disliking or even hating. So, I suppose Lev should be top of that list but honestly for me it was the character of Casey the way she could change her opinion to suit the situation. Casey had a lot of influence and control with the Unity Project. With Lev I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him thinking he was just disillusioned and some sort of religious zealot, or was he a conniving man who used others insecurities to coerce them into joining his cult.

I think this book really hooks you in, holds onto you and drags you though all of Lo’s ups and downs. You really see things through her eyes and go on her rollercoaster journey with her. It is the first book I have read by this author, but after reading this one I will be checking out her other books soon!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading The Project was an intense, mystery, thriller with suspense that keeps you guessing to the very end. Full of twists and turns.

Summing up I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it really had me thinking and trying to work out who’s opinion was the “right one”, the most accurate when it came to the Unity Project. I really wanted a “happy ever after” for Lo, Bea, Emmy and Foster, and yes the ending is well, wow, not what I expected but what can I say….you’ll get what I mean when you read it yourself!



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