Published by Headline Book Publishing on 29-08-2013
Genres: Fiction, General
A mother and her daughters drive for days without sleep until they crash their car in rural Oklahoma. The mother, Amaranth, is desperate to get away from someone she's convinced will follow them wherever they go--her husband. The girls, Amity and Sorrow, can't imagine what the world holds outside their father's polygamous compound. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of Bradley, a farmer grieving the loss of his wife. At first unwelcoming to these strange, prayerful women, Bradley's abiding tolerance gets the best of him, and they become a new kind of family. An unforgettable story of belief and redemption, AMITY & SORROW is about the influence of community and learning to stand on your own.
After an intriguing Twitter campaign about God, sex and farming Amity and Sorrow went straight onto my TBR list!
Amity and Sorrow opens with a car crash. Amaranth has run away from her old life at her husband’s polygamist compound, taking her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, with her. After days of terrified driving and no sleep, Amaranth falls asleep at the wheel, crashing the car and forcing the three of them to find refuge with a local widower named Bradley.
The story is told from two different timelines. The first is the current day, beginning with the car crash. The second is Amaranth’s relationship with Zachariah, the formation of the compound, and the events leading up to the moment they run away.
The characters are really interesting (though not necessarily likeable). Amity, the youngest, is torn between what she’s always been taught and a whole world she’s never seen before. Sorrow hates the outside world and just wants to go home. Used to being someone special, the oracle of the Church, Sorrow can’t (and doesn’t want to) find her place in this outside world.
Sorrow is a difficult character, and it’s easy to hate her. She doesn’t understand why her mother insisted on making them run, and why no one seems to want to follow the rules they’ve always known. Sorrow does some truly awful things, and she is completely and utterly devoted to her father and the cult.
Amaranth was a really interesting character, and I absolutely loved learning about her relationship with her husband and how the cult was formed. She has left her husband, her sister wives’ and her entire life behind to flee with the girls, and I was desperate to know why. Amaranth has so many emotions, from her initial concern about sharing her husband with sister wives, to her growing loyalty for those same women. She feels guilt for what her daughters went through as part of the cult, terror of being caught and a strange confused mix of feelings towards the outside world and Bradley, their host. Although I didn’t always like the decisions she made, I did love trying to piece together why and how she ended up fleeing a polygamous cult to end up on a remote farm in Oklahoma.
Amity, the youngest daughter is the character you root for most. Suddenly away from the influence of her father and the cult, Amity begins to question some of the rules they’ve always lived by, and to explore her new found freedom. At the same time, she’s always looking out for Sorrow, who despite being the oldest has always been looked after. In the same way as Sorrow is devoted to the cult, Amity is devoted to her sister, even when Sorrow might not deserve it. Amity desperately wants Sorrow to be happy – but she doesn’t necessarily agree with what Sorrow wants. Amity is by far the easiest character to care about, and although you admire her love for her sister, you will wish she would let Sorrow go so she can live her own life, free from the cult.
Bradley is an interesting enough character, but his elderly father managed to steal the show, and he is one of the best minor characters I’ve read in a long time. Funny and frank, Bradley’s father provides some much needed humour as well as words of wisdom, and I couldn’t help but like him.
The plot kept me hooked, and the two timelines helped with that – I wanted to know both why the women fled and how their story would end. The setting felt a little odd, sort of torn between modern day and an older time period. For example, the farm has no phone. For me personally, I would have preferred if the story clearly picked one time period or the other – if it’s necessary that the farm doesn’t have a phone etc, I would have preferred the whole story was set in a time frame where that didn’t feel out of place.
Overall I really enjoyed Amity and Sorrow, and I think it would make a fantastic book club pick – although it’s not a light or easy read, and some of the scenes are downright disturbing. It is however, thought-provoking and dramatic, and the story would make for some excellent conversation and debate. Peggy Riley has written an amazing novel, filled with twists and complex characters. It’s lyrically written, and so although the subject matter is dark, the book itself manages to be beautiful.
Buy it? This is one that’s worth buying for me, especially since I can imagine re-reading it.
In a nutshell: Dark and intense, Amity and Sorrow is fascinating and thought-provoking – not one to be missed.