All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Amity And Sorrow – Peggy Riley

on May 8, 2013

Amity And SorrowAmity And Sorrow
Peggy Riley
Little, Brown & Company
2013, 284p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Amaranth has been driving for 4 days and 4 nights when she finally crashes the car. She has been driving for 4 days and 4 nights with her two young daughters, Amity and Sorrow on the back seat, the two girls bound together by a strip of white cloth around each of their wrists.

Amaranth has fled her husband and her family – the religious compound where they lived. The first wife and the original wife, however one wife wasn’t enough for her preacher husband Zachariah. He took more and more wives until Amaranth was one of fifty. A hundred mouths to feed, clothe and provide warmth and shelter for and her husband away preaching for months, always returning, always returning with another woman to take as another bride. From far and wide they came, seeking solace, seeking redemption for the end, which they all believe is coming.

Amaranth has birthed and raised her two daughters in the compound, it is all they have ever known. When she rips them from it, they are confused, frightened. The world outside is foreign to them, they do not know how to behave, their simple ways do not prepare them for the ways of others. Sorrow in particular, is devastated to have left. As her father’s favourite, as the Oracle of the compound, she believes that she will be the vessel for the new Jesus. But Amaranth has finally found something that she can’t ignore, something that horrifies her so much that she has packed up her girls and fled.

When she crashes the car, reclusive farmer Bradley comes to their aid. Although at first he doesn’t want them there and they don’t want to be there, it soon seems that they have little choice. Everything Amaranth had carefully stockpiled for the car is gone and she has little money. She helps out on Bradley’s farm, tending the garden, cooking him food. She sees the possibility of safety even as she struggles to find a way in which to help Amity and Sorrow adjust to their new surroundings. Amity is fiercely devoted to her sister, would do anything for her. And all Sorrow wants to do is get home.

I have to admit, I’m fascinated by the polygamous culture. I’ve read numerous books, both fiction and non, I’ve watched TV shows (including that incredibly obnoxious reality TV series, Sister Wives) and documentaries. I’ve often joked about wanting a sister wife – preferably one who cooked and cleaned but the reality is that these situations often seem idyllic, the women will tell you that they’re idyllic and that they love their sister wives (which they may well do) but the reality is generally that it is anything but. Amaranth is the first wife and she assumed she would be the only wife. But as the voice of God spoke more and more to her husband, it seemed that God intended for him to take many wives. And Amaranth, despite loving some, maybe even all of her sister wives, still struggles with the fact that her husband always desires more. 1, 2, 3 wives were not enough, 20 wives were not enough even 30 wives were not enough. But it is who she suspects that Zachariah intends to make his 51st wife that causes her to run.

Although we get glimpses of life on the compound in flashbacks, the book is really about Amaranth’s strength in escaping. Even though she has known little else, even though her girls have known nothing else, she packs them up and she drives. They don’t know what TV is, they believed they’re banned from fields and the houses of other men, they don’t know how to relate to people in the street wearing shirts and shorts when they wear layer upon layer of clothing, including cloth caps to cover their heads. Sorrow in particular is completely out of her comfort zone as her father’s treasured daughter, the respected Oracle, the vessel.

Although I could sympathise, particularly with Amity, I did have trouble expressing as much sympathy as I should for Sorrow. She was terribly abused and no one ever deserves the kind of brainwashing she went through, to alter her thinking so terribly. But she was a hard person to really feel for, she’s so unlikable. So horrible to those around her, her mother and Amity, who she hates for taking her away from what she knows and believes in. I think that it’s probably very real, quite authentic for how a child could feel having been ripped from all they know but it made scenes with her very difficult to read. I wanted to help her, but not in the passive way that Amaranth was. I wanted to get her proper help but perhaps in being off the grid so long, Amaranth was too frightened to get back on. She was terrified her husband would come after them, would track them down. And so they stayed on the farm until the situation reached dangerous boiling point. I know that it probably took her all her courage to leave to get them away, but you can’t do that and then not do anything else. They had no idea where they were, why they were really there and what was going to happen next. Hiding them away and pretending that everything would be okay now because they were no longer on the compound wasn’t going to work, especially when Sorrow was so desperate to get back there and become the only thing that she thought gave herself any validation.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I just couldn’t. There were so many things that I felt should’ve been included, it felt too short and the scenes between Amaranth and Bradley, the farmer, to abrupt. The development could’ve been there, if the author had taken it a little slower and let it come about gradually, instead of rushing it.


Book #113 of 2013


Amity & Sorrow counts towards my participation in the What’s In A Name?6 Challenge. It fits into the 5th category, Read a book with an emotion in the title. That’s 3/6 read for this challenge so far.


4 responses to “Amity And Sorrow – Peggy Riley

  1. I have this one waiting in my Netgalley stack – I picked it because I’m also interested in these situations…. I might leave it for a while after reading your review!

  2. naimahaviland says:

    I put this novel on my Goodreads To Be Read list after reading your review, mostly out of curiosity. The blog topic brought to mind Carolyn Jessop’s true account memoirs Escape and Triumph. She was born into an American cult and was a sister wife and escaped with her children. One of her daughters was like Sorrow and she went back to the cult. Even though Ms. Jessop’s memoirs tell a story specific to her, I think there’s a lesson to all of us on overcoming adversity, starting over, and learning to let go of the past.

  3. Melinda says:

    I’ve seen so many good reviews on this one. I’m glad you liked it!

  4. […] “As much as I wanted to like this book, I just couldn’t. There were so many things that I felt should’ve been included, it felt too short and the scenes between Amaranth and Bradley, the farmer, to abrupt. The development could’ve been there, if the author had taken it a little slower and let it come about gradually, instead of rushing it.” All the Books I Can Read […]

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