When Kirby’s mother, without much notice leaves Kirby in the care of her Uncle Caleb, leader of a cult and takes off to Africa Kirby’s world is turned upside down. At the first meeting Uncle Caleb introduces Kirby as Esther. “ I am not Esther” Kirby repeated in protest, “I’m Kirby” But he insisted that she would have to use her new name as all the women of their faith had Biblical names. Kirby was used to dyeing her hair red and green for Christmas but now Uncle Caleb made her tie her hair in a braid and wear a headscarf in public.
In protest Kirby hacked her hair with a kitchen knife. He also made her abandon her jeans and T-shirt and for a Long blue skirt, white loose blouse done up to the neck and up to the wrists, big white apron, laced up shoes and underwear ‘big enough to hide a cow’. Kirby who was loathe to give up her jeans objected by saying, “I’m allergic to skirts. ” Besides these impositions there was no TV or radio at the cult and no books to read but for the Bible as they ‘kept their thoughts turned to the lord.
Also she had to use formal language and obey the rules of the cult without question as the women of the cult always put themselves in the background. When Kirby tried to assert herself Uncle Caleb locked her in the prayer room where she remained isolated until such time Uncle Caleb released her. This conflict is important because it introduces new characters like Daniel and Maggie into the plot and develops fascinating relationships between them. Esther’s cousin Daniel helped Kirby find her mother’s things after
Uncle Caleb refused to let her have them and Esther found comfort in the innocent 5 year old Maggie. The conflict also creates suspense as the reader is kept guessing, will Kirby get out of the cult and be reunited with her mother with Daniel’s help or will she succumb to the pressure from Uncle Caleb and accept the lifestyle of the cult. When Esther protests to her change in name and hairstyle and dress the themes identity crisis and rebellion are revealed by her actions.
“I don’t know who I am any longer” Esther said to her mother when they were reunited, confused about her identity as any fourteen year old who had so much change inflicted on her in such a short span of time would feel. So we see that Fleur Beale has deliberately used conflict in the novel so that the reader is engaged with the characters and the plot of the novel and the resolution in the end becomes all the more meaningful because of the conflict that Esther faced when she moved to live in the cult and met the domineering Uncle Caleb.