Amity & Sorrow – Peggy Riley

This is another review for keepcalmandreadabook from my lovely colleague, fellow book lover Jane.

Amity & Sorrow is a story about God, sex, and farming. An unforgettable journey into the horrors a true believer can inflict upon his family, and what it is like to live when the end of the world doesn’t come.”

Amaranth flees an oppressive cult taking her two children, Amity and Sorrow, with her. Married to the cult leader and the first of 50 wives, Amaranth has finally seen something in her pastor husband’s homespun religion that forces her to gather her children and escape, just as her husband threatens to bring destruction to the cult.

A car crash throws Amaranth and her children upon the mercy of a bachelor farmer. His initial apathy towards them ensures they can camp unmolested on his land.

Amity and Sorrow are like shell-shocked survivors of a war – they have no understanding of the modern world and no grasp of how humans interact with each other when not living under the ‘rules’ imposed on them by their preacher father, who likened himself to God.

Set loose, Amity reaches tentatively for new found freedom – testing the limits of the restrictive laws she was raised with and finding that the world does not end if they are broken. The eldest daughter, Sorrow, resists the new world. Amaranth, meanwhile, who had helped build the cult that she has now fled, finds freedom easier to embrace, but can’ stop wondering about the other wives, the other children – the ones that did not escape with her.

Through Amaranth’s flashbacks, we begin to see the true nature of the ‘alternative’ community and the final devastation visited upon the wives and their children within in.

I found this to be a gripping tale of a family being dragged from a cult to an existence in rural, modern America. The girls are not so much brainwashed as entirely compliant in the beliefs of the closed society they were born and raised within. Amity and Sorrow must learn to shed one set of beliefs – those handed down by a father who abused his flock – for new beliefs, ones that they themselves must create from their own experiences of the world and the people within it But can the teenagers make that leap of faith?

Fire is a constant theme in the book – man-made fire destroys the temple belonging to the cult (in suspicious circumstances), Sorrow uses fire to exact her revenge and a metaphysical fire; the emotion between people, and a concept of hell-fire, also permeates the book.

I found this to be an interesting book on a topic not usually featured in fiction. The denouement is unexpected and overall this is a book that will provoke lots of discussion in reading groups and clubs. It is also one that leaves you pondering the story long after the covers have been closed.

Editor’s Note – This dual cover design employs two of the best book jackets I have seen in a long time, with the pitch-perfect font and use of metaphor. This is the first Tinder Press title KCARAB has had the pleasure of reviewing and it delivers a ‘flaming’ brilliant first impression (sorry)!

Many thanks to Jane for the review, and Tinder Press for the review copy.

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