Amity and Sorrow
Amity and Sorrow are two girls raised in a religious cult somewhere is the southern states of the USA. The cult consists of their father and his fifty wives and numerous children. We meet the sisters as their mother Amaranth escapes the cult with them, having unearthed a dreadful truth she'd been too blind to see. They find themselves in sparse farmland in Oklahoma, where they are taken in by Bradley, a struggling farmer himself. But Sorrow's ingrained faith prevents her from adjusting to a life outside the cult, and she longs to return to the father who abused her...
From the outset, this book grabs you by the throat and never fully lets you go. The story's narration switches from present to past, so the full extent of this religious cult's damaging environment is only learned gradually. Riley is extremely skilled at creating an atmosphere of intrigue; this is a true page turner.
My favourite character arc of the novel was definitely Amaranth. The reader has a real sense of her struggle to overcome her guilt and the feeling of sisterhood she had with the other wives. Her character is complex; she has a history, and as more is revealed, the reason she is in this situation became more understandable. Here was a woman with no prospects, getting drunk every night, when a man comes along preaching hope.
Yes, this story is bleak, disturbing, sickening even, but it also provides a thoughtful examination of the impacts of polygamous cults, and the reasons people are attracted to them in the first place.
It is a highly accomplished first novel.
Publisher: Tinder Press