'She has had to run far and fast to pull herself loose from him, to rip those stitches, but still she can feel how bound she is...'
Amity and Sorrow are sisters, and we meet them as they are on the run with their mother Amaranth, from their home which is now on fire. It was the only place the two of them have ever known; they know nothing of the outside world. Their mother has driven for four days solid in a desperate bid to escape the life she has been living, to take them away from her husband, their father, and the polygamous cult that they have grown up in. When they come to a stop, crashing the car at a gas station in the Oklahoma countryside, feeling scared and hungry, they meet Bradley, a farmer, who is sad and lonely with his own life no longer with him, and although he is initially suspicious of the three women with their unusual clothing, and though he is not overly welcoming at first, he does offer them hope and a place to stay.
The sisters react in contrasting ways to this dramatic change in their lives; whilst Amity enjoys her newfound freedom and all the things she is discovering, Sorrow wants nothing other than to return home, to her father.
Interspersed amongst the main narrative recounting what happened to the three women having escaped are several chapters recalling events before they left the cult, so we gradually learn how life was there, Amaranth the first of fifty wives, and we begin to understand her motives as the past slowly unfolds to us and reveals its secrets.
This is a captivating story that drew me in; I felt compelled to read on and discover what had lain behind Amaranth's choice to be part of the cult, and to find out how the sisters would react to this whole new world that they were suddenly exposed to. The relatively short chapters of episodes in their lives encouraged me to keep reading on and not put the book down.
I was convinced by the contrast between the sisters; it is only possible to try and imagine their lives in the cult for anyone who has never been part of such a thing, yet I believed in both their reactions - Sorrow wanting to get back there, missing all that she has known and believed in and been a key part of, and yet also Amity embracing the new aspects of life offered to her now, so much that is unknown.
This felt to me like a highly original story with characters that I grew to understand and care about more deeply as I read on. It's also a story that made me think and ponder the different lifestyles people lead and the difficult choices people make. I liked the structure and pace of the story and I would very much recommend this fascinating debut novel to others.
Published by Tinder Press