I Am Rebecca is the sequel to Fleur Beale’s bestselling classic, I Am Not Esther. I read I Am Not Esther when I was about 13, so about 15 years ago now. While the first book was published in 1998, the second book isn’t set much after the original book – about five months later in fact. I didn’t re-read I Am Not Esther before reading I Am Rebecca, but it wasn’t really necessary to. I Am Rebecca follows Kirby/Esther’s young cousin Rebecca as she struggles with the consequences of having her brother, sister, and cousin all leave the Children of the Faith.
At fourteen, Rebecca is about to find out who she will marry (the marriage will happen when she is sixteen). Unlike Esther, Rebecca was born into a life living as part of the Children of the Faith, which is a cultist religious group. As such, her view of the people around her is generally more positive, and she casts an alternative viewpoint towards the idea of living a more simple life. While it is not all positive, I Am Rebecca doesn’t paint the Children of the Faith as harshly as I remember the first novel doing. However the religious group includes people who aren’t as “godly” as they appear, and Rebecca finds herself caught in the middle.
For Rebecca, the decision to leave, or not leave the Children of the Faith isn’t as simple as it was for Esther. She might have some family amongst the “wordly” (aka those outside of the Children of the Faith), but she has her parents, younger siblings, and twin sister that she will never see again if she leaves. Not only that, but Rebecca doesn’t have any lofty ambitions outside of the group. What she wants is a simple life, with a husband who is kind. The world outside doesn’t offer much for her, or so it seems.
Rebecca might be a mild-mannered character, but she is by no means one who lets herself get walked over. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, even when it conflicts with her religious beliefs. Her innocence and innate kindness make her a likeable character, and I found myself rooting for her, no matter what her eventual decision would be.
If you’ve read I Am Not Esther, then I Am Rebecca is a fantastic follow up, and well worth reading to learn more about the world that Fleur Beale first shared with us all those years ago. If you haven’t read I Am Not Esther, then you don’t really need to in order to enjoy I Am Rebecca, but the first book is such a New Zealand classic that it would be a shame not to!