Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
(Little Brown – July 25, 2017)
Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten 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 ten–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 seventeen 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.
OH MY GOODNESS. THIS BOOK. I hate writing spoiler reviews, so can barely write a thing about this without sharing too much.
GATHER THE DAUGHTERS has the most disturbing and haunting premise EVER, while at the same time having strong female characters who you just cheer for as you learn more of their stories. I told my husband about it and he was absolutely horrified. I listened to the audio version, which had EXCELLENT narration, and couldn’t stop listening even as I was disgusted and wanting to personally gather all of the daughters and get them the hell out of there. YUCK. YUCK. YUCK.
What makes the story even more powerful is the author’s background as a psychiatric nurse practitioner who works with traumatized children and has studied child abuse extensively. As a teacher, this issue is one that we hate to even think about but sadly do encounter as we work with children, and as a mother of daughters, I simply can’t get this out of my head. I read this as the August pick for the @saltwaterreads book club on Instagram – what an amazing choice!
I highly recommend this book, but be warned that there are child abuse and sexual abuse triggers.