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, 10 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 10 - 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 17-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 a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively listenable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
"Compulsive and suspenseful... This beautifully and carefully constructed work pulls no punches in its depiction of a bleak future; it will attract fans of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and readers who enjoy horror, suspense, and dystopian fiction." (Library Journal )
"An intriguing, gorgeously realized and written novel which inexorably draws you into its dark heart." (Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat)
"Melamed is a masterful writer, and she establishes a hauntingly vivid atmosphere... This is a haunting work in the spirit of The Handmaid's Tale - but Melamed more than holds her own. Hopefully, her debut is a harbinger of more to come. Fearsome, vivid, and raw: Melamed's work describes a world of indoctrination and revolt." (Kirkus )
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- cassandra vollenberg
A gripping but disturbing read
One important thing about this book that wasn't obvious from the summary: Although the main characters are young teenage or prepubescent girls, it's definitely not a story for children and should not be read by someone who's sensitive to the subject of child abuse or sexual abuse.
That said, while the subject matter of this story was deeply disturbing, I felt it was done tastefully (at least as much as is possible) and the author stayed away from any graphic descriptions. Most of the horror comes not from the acts themselves but from how they're seen by members of the island's society as completely normal and mundane. It was well-written with compelling, fleshed out characters. The suspense was very well done to the point that I listened to most of the book in one go. I'll definitely be on the lookout for future books from Jennie Melamed.
My only criticism on the performance is that the dialogue for most of the girls was read in a very whiny, shrill voice that distracted me from the story. Janey was the worst offender, which is unfortunate since she has quite a bit of dialogue. Thankfully the narrator's normal voice isn't like that so most of it was fine.