Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review :: Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daugthers - Jennie Melamed

"On a small isolated island, there's a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day reign inside and outside the home, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood."

Gather the Daughters opens with descriptions that are vivid and beautiful.  The isolation of the island is quickly apparent, but it sounds almost dreamy, at first.  Dry summer pastures and hazy sky.  Dresses stained with berry juice, and homemade cookies with fresh milk.  The foreshadowing is often subtle.  The girls are restless and irritable.  They collectively have a habit of fidgeting with their hair and dresses.  They can't sleep.  There's a marker in the beginning that lays everything bare, but only in retrospect (my mind didn't go there).  Melamed takes her time divulging the full extent of the horror.

It's the author's ability to weave scenes of simple beauty into jarring sequences of systematic abuse and exploitation, that make this such a complex, remarkable and devastating book.  The shrouding mystery compels you to read, even as your stomach twists.  Chilling lines like, 'what happens to the sons, when the daughters leave?' plague me still.  I'll also never forget the descriptions.  The muddy shins amidst clouds of mosquitos.  The driftwood huts and meals left on doorsteps.  And okay, there are some equally horrifying descriptions that I won't share, and they will live in my mind also.  Srsly good writing.

But still.  Gather the Daughters took me places I didn't want to go and, and wish I hadn't.  I was relieved that Melamed left the worst truths at an implied level, (no full-on GoT style descriptions).  I still may not recover from this story.  I truly thought I'd be okay with it.  I've always appreciated a challenging story, and will admit to having a curiosity about cults.  Just maybe not this kind of challenging.  Or this kind of cult.

Ultimately, I think I was won over by fighting spirit of the girls.  The daughters are brave and broken, their stories recount such misery and fragile strength, I was brought to tears more than once.   Full-on, ugly crying.  They are the gift of this novel.

It's an astounding book in so many ways.  It's also harrowing, heartbreaking, and often sickening.  I just don't know guys.  I'm all over the show.  I don't know if I'm like, 5 stars or 1 star or like, 3.5.  I can't remember the last time a book made me feel this way.  I guess I'll have to leave you to figure out if it's for you.

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

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