One of the most riveting reads for me this year, Amity and Sorrow would have seemed far-fetched to me if I hadn’t recently read about sister-wives and the certain cults that exist in the US.
Here’s how the story begins: Two sisters sit, side by side, in the backseat of an old car. Amity and Sorrow. Their hands are hot and close together. A strip of white fabric loops between them, tying them together, wrist to wrist.
Their mother, Amaranth, is driving at a crazy speed to get away from their father, the leader of a cult. She manages to pull out her teenage daughters from a suspicious fire and escape with them in a battered car. The girls have never seen the world outside and Sorrow is tied to her sister to prevent her from running away. Amaranth, driving for four days with almost no sleep, crashes the car somewhere in rural Oklahoma, leaving them stranded outside a gas station. A downtrodden farmer, Bradley and his adopted son, Dust come to their aid.
The women take shelter in the farmer’s porch and thus begins Amaranth’s attempts to give her daughters a somewhat normal life. Until now, normal for these girls meant living in a cult where their father had 50 wives and 27 children! Their fascination with and fear of the ordinary things and relationships in the outside world is told very well.
The story is told from Amaranth and Amity’s perspective, but a large part of it about the unwillingness of Sorrow to accept the reality that her father is not God and she is not the Oracle. Amaranth, who as the first wife of the cult’s leader, was an active participant in its creation, battles with her own guilt and fears, while being determined to ‘normalize’ life for her girls. Amity, the more open and positive of the two sisters too struggles with a mixture of a burden for her sister’s well-being and a fascination for the ‘new world’ she is now exposed too.
Going back and forth between the past and the present, told in two distinct voices, filled with dark imagery and deep emotions, the book comes off as being a struggle between good and evil, the past and the future, hope and despair. I liked the way the author has explored the relationships – mother and daughters, sisters, husband and wife, wife and sister-wives, etc. I’m not going to give away the ending. Suffice to say, it left me with mixed emotions and made the story all the more believable for me.
I received this book in exchange for a review from NetGalley.
- Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley (mynovelopinion.wordpress.com)
- Review: Amity & Sorrow (bookingmama.net)
- Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley… And Katie’s Phobias (wordsforworms.com)