Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Gather the Daughters Book Review
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Click here for the Amazon product page.
Click here for the Barnes and Noble product page.
Click here for the Books-a-Million product page.
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.
Review by Brittany:
I have so many feelings about this book. I was fortunate enough to request an advance copy of this book off NetGalley and get approve, so I was able to read it well before it's release date in July.
This book takes place in a time period that feels almost ambiguous. The world as we know it is gone, and instead there is a vast wasteland from which a society has been built on its own island. This society is one in which woman's main role is to reproduce. They are married off - carefully, so that they don't end up with someone to whom they are related - and expected to build a home and a life for their husband and children. They have no knowledge of what happens outside of the island, and they have no opportunities to gain knowledge. There are no hospitals, no modern medicine, and women are expected to simply follow what their husbands want.
It is a hard time for women. They watch as their daughters are raised by fathers who are allowed to visit their bedrooms at night. They fear having daughters and weep when one is born, and they only celebrate when sons are born because of the privilege they will get to experience. Women cannot gather without chaperones unless it is at a birth, which means they rarely get to build relationships or discuss anything that happens to them on the island.
At some point, the younger girls decide they don't want to do it anymore. They are tired of being abused, married off, discarded. The girls escape to the beach to try to live, but with limited food and only the outdoors as shelter, this is not a promising way to live.
I had so many feelings when I was reading this book - interest, sadness, shock, anger, pride. There aren't many happy moments in this book, but there are moments of small triumphs that made me feel good about being a woman. I struggled with how these women could possible allow things to happen to their daughters and fellow women, but the reality is that this is how it works in society. We mold and move along with the flow more often than we don't, and that's what happened in this book. And those who question are punished for their bold willingness to say what a lot of others are thinking.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It's not going to give you a happy, tied up ending, but it's a well-written, striking story with characters that I learned to love as I read.
"I know it's not perfect, but it's the best I can give you."