Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed – A Book that Makes you Restless
14th July, 2017
An isolated island where children roam wild and free every summer. One summer, a girl sees something forbidden which stirs the minds of all the other girls. They break another rule of the island and gather around.
In an island, far away from the rest of the world, ten men and their families start a new life. They have strict religious beliefs and stringent societal rules. The people of the island do not know what exists outside it and call those areas as ‘wastelands’. Only the Wanderers in the island are allowed to venture out of the boundaries. The islanders raise children who are set free every summer to enjoy a life of freedom, fighting for food and shelter, outside the comfort of their homes. The girls enjoy being wild and free until their ‘Summer of Fruition ‘after which they enter into their duties of womanhood and marriage. When the men and women are old and no longer useful to the society, they take a draught and die. One summer, a girl sees something – rumours spread and the daughters gather.
The group of girls start thinking and questioning everything. It was heartening to see them feel doubtful about themselves and their society even though they are unsure about what is the right path. The tricky part being that the reader is a stranger to the strange customs that are a way of life for the islanders.
I loved the underlying commentary that runs throughout the story about what is truth? Where does truth begin and blind dogma end? How do we know what is right and wrong? What is normal and what is not? The girls remained restless in my heart, gnawing at my conscience about what all we might have accepted in real life and whether we should have resisted. Melamed puts her readers through a harrowing experience of acceptance and resistance and makes us question why the line that separates them is so blurred.
The book takes your thumping heart on a roller coaster ride. The character sketches are extremely well done. The story is narrated from the perspective of the four girls who already know the customs of the island while we, as readers, are ignorant of the same. This was interesting because it kept me guessing and also hoping that my guesses were incorrect.
Even though the book boasts of an engaging storyline, it is extremely difficult to rate a book that is so horrifying and frightening at the same time. Everything in the book seemed too realistic and kept me awake at night thinking ‘what if this is a reality somewhere?’ The ending is realistically ambiguous (I almost wished it would be a cliché happy ending because I could not take it anymore) which crushed my spirits because a screaming kept overpowering the small relief I felt towards the end. By the end of the book I had mixed feelings about the book – I was disturbed by everything in the book; I felt myself covered in the mud and grim beliefs of the island. I am in a dilemma because on one hand the story telling is splendid and on the other hand, I feel as if I am being a silent supporter to this dystopia if I give it a high rating.
Trigger Warning – The book hints at child abuse by incest though there are no explicit descriptions of the same. There is a page where a pregnant woman is cut open which is described in graphical detail and might be uncomfortable to some readers.
Final Verdict :
This is not a book that you would enjoy reading, but one that would give you nightmares. I applaud the dark, sinister world that Melamed has created in her debut. The daughters of this island would haunt me for a very long time.
Title : Gather the Daughters
Author : Jennie Melamed
Publisher : Tinder Press
Expected Publication: July, 2017
Language : English
Pages : 352
Rating : 4.5/5
Disclaimer : Much thanks to Tinder Press for an advanced reader’s copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
Do you have plans to read Gather the Daughters?