Righteous Release introduces us to life as a follower of the Eternal Followers, a strict religious sect who expect their members to shun "wordlies", the non-believers, and their sinful temptations, such as books, computers and television.
They ARE allowed a few wordly pleasures, such as cream cakes and alcohol though, and it's the latter that gets David Chambers into hot water when he drunkenly agrees to marry a girl he barely knows. He soon regrets his decision and decides to thwart his family's plans to see him married off and producing children, as the fellowship would like. It would be easy to condemn his actions but his betrothed is an incredibly bossy woman with few redeeming features. It may seem like a cowardly decision, but David stands to lose everything - his home, family and friends and job - as he will be shunned by the community.
Once David has escaped his oppressive lifestyle, he discovers new pleasures and interests - TV, cinema, his childhood crush and, surprisingly, politics. The latter features heavily, with the Tory/Labour battle over the Gulf War given extensive coverage - it is obviously a passion for the author but I'm not totally convinced it really fits in with the plot, as I doubt any political party would ask David to get so actively involved, given his extremely limited knowledge of society and current affairs.
It's easy to assume that David has had a lucky escape but he struggles to fit in with his strange new world and actually contemplates going back to his previous life as a follower. Predictably, he ends up with a happy ending though, following his heart and dreams to find happiness.
Some parts of the story seem unlikely, notably the hit-and-run accident and its consequances, but the Eternal Fellowship is loosely based on the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, who shun followers who fall out of favour. Ex-followers were in fact invited to share their stories at the book launch.
Richard Gardner set out to write a story that is both entertaining and thought provoking and I would say he's succeeded.
star rating : 4/5
Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.