Book Club: See You In September

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Author: Charity Norman
ISBN: 978-1-74331-839-3
RRP: $29.99

Charity Norman writes compelling tales that make you think, keep you guessing and capture the mind and the heart; this is the third of her books I have read and her back list is definitely on my wish list.

See You In September tackles intriguing subject matter that isn’t common so I knew I was in for something different right from the start. Cults are a subject I have heard about but never really explored; I know about WACO and a little about Manson but that was well before my time, there’s a few others that I know of but not really about and I remember a Home and Away storyline involving a cult. I know how they operate but Norman takes us deep inside to really understand the workings.

Cassy is a young woman heading off to holiday in Thailand and explore New Zealand in the lead-up to her best friend’s wedding. She is heading off with her boyfriend of two years and they are due back just days before she is due to stand as bridesmaid in her best friend and bridezilla’s wedding. On the way to the airport there is an argument with her father and the tension is thick when she gets on the plane.

Cassy blew a collective kiss at them. ‘See you in September,’ she said. A throwaway line. Just words, uttered casually by a young woman in a hurry. And then she’d gone.

On a New Zealand highway in the rain while hitching to Taupo things escalate between Cassy and Hamish; their holiday has been showing the cracks in their relationship and their fundamental differences but it all crashes down when they are offered a lift in a rundown white van and Hamish refuses to take it. Cassy accepts the ride and leaves Hamish on the highway in the rain, planning to meet up with him in Taupo the next day.

The van is filled with happy people of various ages, dressed similarly and offering warmth and comfort. It started with the offer of a lift to Rotorua but she ended up accepting the offer of a bed and a hot meal in a farming community for the night and a lift back in the morning.

The farming community of Gethsemane is all about sustainability and living off grid, situated on the banks of a lake in the shadow of a volcano on 500 acres of land donated by an old couple. The setting is idyllic, picture postcard peaceful perfection. No electronics, no technology and no real contact with the outside world. There is one computer locked away in the office with patchy internet connection, only to be used under supervision and with permission. The community runs courses and holds stalls but for the most part remain in their secluded slice of paradise.

The setting is idyllic, the community is welcoming and the peace is palpable so it isn’t hard to believe that she is slowly convinced to extend her stay a little bit at a time until she puts off the trip to Taupo completely.

There are excerpts from a manual beginning some chapters that allow us an insight into how cult leaders attract their followers and we see these findings in action as Cassy is convinced to stay in Gethsemane and settles into her new life.

The story is told from two perspectives as we live vicariously through Cassy in her new life and head back to England to follow the fallout in her family after she decides not to return.

Cassy is an intelligent and happy young woman from a good family that loves her, her life views are a little different from theirs but that’s often the way in families. Norman has explored the ways in which an intelligent and strong young woman can be convinced to join a community like this. Like everyone, Cassy wants to be loved and accepted for who she is and the community at Gethsemane are more than welcoming. She is far from home and everyone who knows her, it is easy to remember things slightly differently from this distance and I was fascinated by the look into her mind and the changes wrought on it, the way that even she seems to see two very distinct personas in herself.

Norman has expertly explored the techniques employed to retain visitors to the valley and allowed us to get to know community leader Justin while still retaining some of his mystery. I am still left curious about him, I want to know why and I want to know more about what makes him tick. Having said that, if I had all those answers it would take away the mystery of him and make it harder to put myself in their community; that sense of mystery and not knowing all about him is necessary for the ‘magic’ of his leadership.

See You In September is an intricate and disturbing venture into the depths of a cult; what draws you in and what keeps you there. It’s also a look into family, friendship, faith and the state of the world. Compelling reading and a disturbing snapshot of the world between 2010 and 2016 when you filter out all but the worst news; it’s all devastating weather events, terrorist attacks and murder. It’s no wonder people are willing to believe in the Last Days of humanity.

Charity Norman can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

See You In September is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading See You In September so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

11 thoughts on “Book Club: See You In September

  1. This book was a real page turner!!! Just couldn’t put it down! Really fascinating journey into the life of a cult and answers the questions we have whenever some tragedy or news regarding one comes into the news. Very scary how casual and almost “normal” and fast indoctrination can occur even in a normal stable person like Cassy the main character. The peace and serenity of her surroundings and the gentle messages at the start makes it easy to understand how she or anyone for that matter can be easily lulled into this Utopian crazy world!! After all technology and the negative news events can be overwhelming even for the most tech savvy among us!! The characters were described so well and seemed so very real it was almost like reading a news report about actual persons! The impact felt by her family back home and the relentless worry they face is also beautifully captured as well as how they struggle to adjust to the new version of Cassy. A really hard hitting and fascinating read!!!

  2. By far my favourite book club book yet!! I read this in 6 hours even with a sore eye and a headache!

    One of those books you just can’t put down, the story is about Cassy (Cairo) a young girl who innocently accepts a lift from a group of seemingly friendly people and her entire life changes!
    She gets sucked into a cult which seems fabulous, gets partnered with a young handsome man and becomes a mother.

    She slowly starts realising she has been brainwashed after leaving to spend time with her sick father and goes back to try and save her family.

    After a very tragic event the book ends on a lighter note and goes to show that there is always a new day.

  3. It was indeed unputdownable. I was fortunate to have a recovering Day in bed and yes I read the entire book. Fascinating, Intriguing with interesting and likeable characters set in luscious New Zealand (mostly).
    With crisp writing and good pace, the story of a cult was fascinating. Of course I know nothing about cults and the behind the scenes look was alive and vivid. I don’t know how true that is or pure imagination but the author did have me wondering at times :’why would you want to leave?!” Sort of
    A worthy read and I shall keep my eye out for others from this authors work.

  4. From the moment you start reading this book you know you are going to read a memorable story that you won’t want to stop reading.

    Cassey is taking a short trip to beautiful New Zealand with her boyfriend Hamish and her last words to her lovely parents as she waves good-bye are See You In September.

    Along the way, Cassey parts with Hamish and accepts a lift of wonderful promises from equally happy people who she feels safe with. We know that the storyline is about a cult and it certainly opened my eyes as I have read about cults and known a girl that actually joined a cult and changed everything about herself.

    Cassey is now known as Cairo. As you turn the pages, adrenalin, suspenseful and emotional feelings will run through you. You will be captivated by some characters and on others you will feel hatred for them.

    The leader of the Cult is called Justin and people think he is god and Cassey/Cairo is brainwashed in believing her parents are bad. Her parents are frantic back home trying to get in contact with her as they lost contact since she got involved with the Cult.

    This is such a beautiful, memorable and enthralling story that will have you gripping your seat. If you have been to New Zealand you can picture the hidden valley where the characters of the cult live.

    As I finished the book, I was feeling drained, sadness and then happy tears. Charity has captured the lives of the cult with precision regarding their rituals and beliefs and made the story believeable and honest. My promise to other readers is that you definitely won’t be able to put down this book once started.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for the fantastic book to read. I loved it.

  5. See You in September by Charity Norman is a real page turner, a scary ‘this happens in real life’ page turner at that. I probably wasn’t expecting too much from this book to be honest, I thought it wouldn’t really open my eyes to much because I’ve “heard” about cults from the news and such, but wow was I wrong.

    Cassy waves goodbye to her family and goes to New Zealand for a trip with her boyfriend. Things don’t quite get off to a good start however and she is soon hitch hiking a ride by herself, which takes her to a secluded camp in the midst of serene beauty. It might look like a calm and lovely place and just where she needs to be, but it’s not what it seems when she soon becomes indoctrinated into the group. Her family meanwhile are back at home, worried about her.

    This is the sort of story that captivates me, and it sure held my attention. It seems so detailed and thorough, we even get insights into the Cult Leader’s Manual, which was scary stuff. I felt so bad for Cassy, I wanted to grab her out of it all, to show her what was happening – but that’s how well written the book was, it showed how easy it is for people to fall into a “safe” place and be scared and brainwashed into not wanting to go into the real world again.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read See You in September by Charity Norman. If you are after a page turner with a new subject matter that isn’t discussed too often, this is the book for you.

  6. See You in September by Charity Norman is a real page turner, a scary ‘this happens in real life’ page turner at that. I probably wasn’t expecting too much from this book to be honest, I thought it wouldn’t really open my eyes to much because I’ve “heard” about cults from the news and such, but wow was I wrong.

    Cassy waves goodbye to her family and goes to New Zealand for a trip with her boyfriend. Things don’t quite get off to a good start however and she is soon hitch hiking a ride by herself, which takes her to a secluded camp in the midst of serene beauty. It might look like a calm and lovely place and just where she needs to be, but it’s not what it seems when she soon becomes indoctrinated into the group. Her family meanwhile are back at home, worried about her.

    This is the sort of story that captivates me, and it sure held my attention. It seems so detailed and thorough, we even get insights into the Cult Leader’s Manual, which was scary stuff. I felt so bad for Cassy, I wanted to grab her out of it all, to show her what was happening – but that’s how well written the book was, it showed how easy it is for people to fall into a “safe” place and be scared and brainwashed into not wanting to go into the real world again.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read See You in September by Charity Norman. If you are after a page turner with a new subject matter that isn’t discussed too often, this is the book for you.

  7. See you in September. By Charity Norman.

    Wow, what a book! This has me intrigued from start to finish.

    Cassy and her boyfriend set off from England to New Zealand for a short trip before Cassy is to return to be her girlfriends Bridesmaid. As she leaves, she calls out to her family “See you in September”.

    But once in New Zealand, things between Cassy and her boyfriend turn sour, and Cassy leaves him by the side of the road as she hitches a ride in a van with a group of happy people who invite her to come and stay at their farm commune where they share everything. Cassy does not feel threatened by them, so she goes with them.

    Their farm is accessible by boat, so they make to trip there, and everyone befriends Cassy. There are families, lots of young children, and she learn that the community is self sufficient, with even its own school. She feels warm and welcome, and when invited to stay for a while, she decides she will.

    But why do bells toll throughout the night? And why does everyone need to meditate when they are told? What is really going on here?

    The author takes us on a journey into the workings of a cult. The book is un-put-downable as we too, as the reader, are drawn in to the workings and ways of the everyday life in the serene and beautiful setting of this community.

    I was gripped by the story, and couldn’t put it down.

    A fantastic read. Thank you Beauty and Lace book club, and Allen & Unwin books.

  8. I had read one of Charity Normans books before and really, really enjoyed it so I was very keen to read ‘See you in September’. I did not expect to be sucked in so deep that this book and its storyline was on my mind 24/7. I went to bed thinking about the story and woke up wondering what was going to happen next.
    We start with Cassy and her boyfriend heading off from Heathrow Airport on a backpacking trip to New Zealands North Island. Reaching Auckland and standing on the side of the road in freezing cold rain trying to hitch a ride and then having an argument with her boyfriend and seeing him in a totally new and negative light Cassy storms off to the near by Service station to use the bathroom and is thrilled to be offered a lift by a van full of very friendly and welcoming people. Her boyfriend is very negative about the van they are travelling in so Cassy decides to go on her own and accept their kind offer of a lift. They travel to Rotorua where she was to get out of the van and wait for her boyfriend but she decided to accept the offer of a hot meal and a warm bed and a ride back to Rotorua in the morning. She ventures to Lake Tarawera and is taken with its extreme beauty. And thus begins her time with this sect that to start with seem all loving and nothing but positive,
    I loved that I knew the areas that were spoken about in the book and also the history of the area and i must say it is the perfect setting for this story.
    This story really does show you how easily it would be to fall into such a trap and then by the time you realise its too late and you are too far in.
    This is seriously a brilliant story and I can now say without doubt that Charity Norman has to go on my favorite Authors list. I was so close to finishing the book when one of my daughters phoned and said she was coming for dinner which meant I had to put my book down by the time she left I was exhausted and my book had to wait until the following morning but now that im finished I feel a little sad as I had become quite attached to Cassy and her family.
    This is a book that I give a huge thumbs up to and suggest it be read when you know you wont have to keep putting the book down as it really is addicting.

  9. New favourite Author Alert!

    I absolutely adored See you September. It is gripping, well written and just so addictive.

    A subject matter so absolutely foreign to me, I really enjoyed the subject matter…. however I won’t be joining a cult anytime soon 😉

    This was a super quick read for me but that was absolutely down to the captivating storyline. Would highly recommend this book.

  10. The topic of cults is something of a mystery to me and this book was something different to read and explore that part of the world that little is known.

    The story started like any other family under stress about a young daughter travelling away and it was interesting to see how a cult can use the feelings that are so new and raw to get grip on new members and use these feelings to make Cassy feel wanted in this environment.

    The story delves into the world at the farm and it shows how easy it is to slip into the everyday life and not think about leaving.

    Such a sad story of a family being torn apart with little ability to do anything as Cassie is a grown women who makes up her own mind. I liked the way Charity Norman put a spin on the story to show how Cassy leaves the cult…. just sad it took a tragedy for the cult’s grip to loosen on Cassy.

    Probably one of the most fascinating and entertaining books I have read, I will certainly be on the lookout for more books written by Chartiy Norman

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover. It’s not something I would normally pick up, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The author has been very careful in her dealing with cults and religion and has handled both topics supremely well, and at no point did I feel uninterested.

    I found the characters unique, and the explanation of mind control fascinating. I did lose a but of compassion for the main character Cassy/Cairo somewhere in the middle. I could not help but feel like she didn’t deserve saving, but she did become more likeable and redeeming as the story continued.

    I found the pace of this book great, in that I was hooked very early on and found myself looking for excuses to continue reading (always a mark of a great read). I did find it hard to keep up with so many support characters though, and at times felt like I needed a family (or community) tree showing where all the connections were.

    Really looking forward to seeing what else this author has published, or what will follow. Great read, many thanks to Beauty and Lace Bookclub and Allen & Unwin Books.

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