Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Gather the Daughters

Author: Jennie Melamed
Genre: Dystopian
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
First Published: July 25, 2017
First Line: "Vanessa dreams she is a grown woman, heavy with flesh and care."

Book Description from GoodReadsYears ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

Gather The Daughters is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: With its dystopian setting and a cult-like group who sets themselves apart from the greater world this book's blurb was giving off an intense, slightly creepy vibe which intrigued me.

Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me on a few levels. Continually at the forefront of the book is the horrifying subject matter which varied from a total lack of women's rights, teen orgies and leading up to the glaring and horrific ongoing incest/sexual abuse. These are difficult, emotional and intense subjects that I found hard to read.  

The story is set within a small population which has set itself apart from the greater society. It's an interesting idea but the author doesn't go far enough with this concept. Readers aren't given enough backstory about how and why their small world was created except that the leaders are following what their forefathers wanted. Nor are we shown what life is like for the greater world (referred to as the Wastelands). I needed more explanation and kept reading hoping for some enlightenment about both worlds but no insight came. 

It also didn't help that there wasn't ANYTHING remotely redeemable about this small society and its demented rules/mores. The abuse was rampant and felt like it was used more for shock value because not much was happening with regards to the plot. I wanted to see the girls kick start a change within their society or something huge to happen but, for much of the book, the focus was only on the abuse and I found myself skimming through.  

The story's weak plot is told via the POVs of several teenage girls. But even with each telling their own story I didn't feel like I got to know any of them well. They remained almost indistinguishable from each other and I resorted to making a cheat sheet to keep track of them. Not a good sign.

If a horrifying, uncomfortable read is what the author was going for then I give full stars but as a reader, the continually alarming, sickening abuse was too much. I'm still at a loss to figure out the point of this book. The subject matter was so extreme and yet readers are left hanging as to how and why this small society came to be and how it has gone unnoticed by the greater world. This is a book about the antithesis of a good society filled with patriarchal control and rampant abuse. I believe this book will be discussed a lot due to its extreme and shocking subject matter but I cannot recommend this book.

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