Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication date: 25 July 2017
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review
I was immediately intrigued by Gather the Daughters, and not just because of its gorgeous cover. The synopsis sounds like a creepy, horror-filled, literary dystopia. It gave me the same vibes as The Handmaid’s Tale, which I recently read and loved, so I eagerly dove straight in.
Never Let Me Go meets The Giver in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.
Years 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 everything it promises and more. Melamed does an incredible job of creating a sense of absolute wrongness — you can feel it from the first page. This sense pervades the book and only gets heavier and heavier as the true situation begins to unravel.
While the world she creates is amazing, it is the characters that make this book truly special. The book is broken downinto multiple viewpoints, all of which are from the young girls living on the island. I’ve spoken numerous times about the issues with multiple points of view, but Gather the Daughters maintains your interest as viewpoints shift. The tone remains similar, so you don’t get that jarring feeling of being ripped out of a narrative, but each character has a unique and interesting point of view. Vanessa, Amanda, Caitlin, and Janey are the girls we spend the most time with. They are each in different yet very similar situations at home. Of these characters, I really loved Amanda, who is pregnant with her first child and coming to terms with the end of her childhood, and Janey, a girl who starves herself to stave off her body’s transition into womanhood. The two of them in particular were absolutely fascinating young women — one suffers the condition that the other is desperately trying to avoid. However, it is through Vanessa and Caitlin that we learn the most about life on the island and their roles alongside their fathers. They are the ones that suffer so much while not realising it at all. They, especially Caitlin, are the ones who drive the conflict forward.
Gather the Daughters is a fantastic novel that depicts the horrific and normalised life within a religious cult surviving at the end of the world. It is like The Handmaid’s Tale in that is features a society that forces women into the role of breeders and normalises their subservience to men, however that is where the similarities end. Gather the Daughters is a feminist dystopia that is a compulsive read. Like a nightmare you can’t shake after you wake up, the book gets into your mind and lingers long after you finish the tale.
A quick warning: Gather the Daughters does feature themes of incest and abuse of children. These are not portrayed in a graphic way, however if you are uncomfortable with this content, it might best to give this book a pass.
Many thanks to Bookbridgr and Tinder Press for providing a copy of this book.
Have you read Gather the Daughters? Is this in your TBR pile? Let me know!
*Copy courtesy of Goodreads