Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amity & Sorrow: A Novel by Peggy Riley | Book Review

TITLE: Amity & Sorrow: A Novel
AUTHOR: Peggy Riley
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Little Brown & Co. / 2013
SOURCE: For Review from Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads / Author's Website

Amity & Sorrow was a rare find for me. I mean, I would probably never walk into a bookstore and pick out a book about a woman who has escaped from a polygamist sect with her two daughters myself, but that's what I love about book blogging. I'm exposed to so many more books and genres than I would be otherwise. Amity & Sorrow touched me more than I thought it ever would, exploring themes of family, love, grief and guilt.

Amaranth has been driving for four days straight with her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, in the back seat trying to out run her past when she crashes the car in Oklahoma. Amaranth is terrified that her husband, leader of a polygamous sect will follow them while her daughters are terrified of the outside world, not knowing anything but their compound. Safety comes with Bradley, the farmer's whose land they crashed on, despite being mistrustful of these three strange women, he allows them to stay on his property where they eventually work towards healing each other and moving towards the future, away from their pasts.

One of my favourite things about novels is their ability to take you to places that you would never go to otherwise, both physical and emotional places. Amity & Sorrow is one of those books that deeply explores situations that very few people will ever find themselves in (relatively speaking of course). These three women have escaped from a cult. A group of hurt and broken women found solace with a man who used their hurt to his own advantage. This story is told from the perspective of Amaranth and Sorrow, a woman who found solace in this life and Sorrow, a child born into it. While I'm not typically a fan of books told from multiple perspectives (it's difficult to create distinct voices for them), I think it was an effective choice for this particular book. Amaranth has taken her children from the only life they've known because she's realized the atrocities that have been committed on the compound over the years. She's dealing with pain, guilt and grief for the life she once had. Amity however, never knew anything else and has grown up ignorant of the modern world. Two very different situations means two very different reactions.

I was unsure about this novel at first, but I actually got really into it. The lifestyle isn't something I can relate to and it's not a subject I have a lot of knowledge about, but I found the reasons Amaranth joined her husband and stayed with him for so many years to be compelling. The emotional aspect of this story is what really drew me in. These were characters whose lives were so different from my own, but their loss was so palpable that it drew me in. Their struggle to survive, fear, and ultimately hope made me really care about these characters.

I was super frustrated with Amity throughout the novel. She was just so completely taken with her previous life and truly believed in everything taught there. She never attempted anything other than trying to get back home going so far as to set things on fire. Basically I spent a good chunk of the novel thinking get this girl some psychological help please! But, that having been said, it never felt like a forced literary reaction to the situation, I could believe that this particular girl exists somewhere.

The secondary characters weren't totally fleshed out. The farmer who helps these women and allows them to stay on his property is kind, but I don't have much else to say about him. He's not a character who really stands out in my mind. The bed ridden grandfather character on the other hand, fantastic. He had some personality behind him.

Amity & Sorrow drew me in and left me contemplating these, to my mind, strange religious sects. It was an effective novel and it left me with so many questions (in a good way). The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the fact that it made me care about the characters. No, they're not relatable, but I cared about what happened to them in the end which is all that I could ask for in a book.

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