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Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed – A Book that Makes you Restless

14th July, 2017

Book Review : Gather the Daughters by Jenni Melamed

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.

Review

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.

Book Review : Gather the Daughters by Jenni Melamed

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: July2017
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.

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Gather the Daughters
This Post Has 29 Comments
  1. It’s often difficult to rate or review books like these. On one hand, they are really well done, but on the other hand, they are too horrible and sometimes realistically horrible. Thanks for sharing though. I hadn’t heard of this one before.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

  2. Wow– I am certainly captured by your review! This isn’t a book I’ve heard of, but it sounds like one I should certainly read. I typically don’t like to read darker books during the summer. However… there is something about a gripping dystopian book which makes you ask those questions: What if this is really happening somewhere? I’ll certainly keep an eye out. Where did you find this novel?

  3. I completely understand how it hard it can be to rate a book with such hard-hitting topics. Your review was great and I never heard of this book till this review. I am very weary about books that are hard to read but sometimes are necessary because these are things that happen in real life. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I am glad you understand how it felt – loved the story telling but terrified by the world. And even after the book ended there is the looming question of ‘Is everyone safe now’. It is almost as if you want the answer to be yes but you know deep down that everything is not over yet.

  4. I think all good literature gives us food for thought. I often hear readers say they dislike a book because they were uncomfortable with the content or the characters and their actions but they miss the point of what the author is trying to do. I have just watched the new series of The Handmaids Tale adapted from Margaret Atwood’s novel and felt all of these emotions however it has themes that are not far from what is a reality for many women in the world today.

    1. Yes, this book made me feel so scared because we do not know if such cults exist elsewhere. It made me think about what is right and wrong. What if we are brought up on something that is wrong and it becomes the ‘right’ for us?

  5. Wow! This sounds like one of those books that will stay on your mind for a long time after you read it, both because it’s a powerful story but also because it’s so disturbing.

  6. This sounds like Lord of the Flies meets The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve requested this on Netgalley and I’m too freaked to read it now if I get approved. You seem so greatly affected by it!

    1. It is nicely written. There is nothing ghastly in the writing; no graphical scenes. But you start having doubts as you read and finally the doubts become the real thing. So the experience is ghastly. And then it seems like it can be a reality one day because after all we human beings set the rules. We can make them in any way we want. Such thoughts make it terrifying. Also it is very difficult to escape from the rules once they are made. The author shows that very well.

  7. OH this is such a lovely review, I’m really glad you enjoyed this book. It’s the first time I’m hearing about that one but I’m definitely intrigued; It sounds so intense, tackling hard topics like that, but quite interesting to read. 🙂

  8. Ooh, I don’t know what to think about this book now. It’s sounds really intriguing which makes me want to add it to a list to get to eventually. I’ll certainly pause to consider buying it if I ever come across it in the shops!

    1. Yes indeed. What I found so striking is that Melamed succeeds in creating a scary picture even though nothing is explicitly described. But few words can have so much impact on the reader

  9. Oh my goodness. Without sounding morbid, but I usually find books about cults absolutely fascinating. I’ve read a few across young adult but nothing to this extent. And the terrifying aspect is that cult communities exist which makes for an all the more disturbing read. I know I’ll struggle with elements like incest and the massacre of the pregnant mother so thank you for the warning. I’m going to pick up a copy and soon, I like being challenged while reading with confronting storylines. Wonderful review sweetheart ❤

    1. I was glad the incest is only mentioned (not that it makes it any less terrifying) and not done in graphical detail. Sometimes I found myself covering my mouth in shock because of one sentence or two that hints at the incest. The book is well written.

  10. I’m adding it to my wishlist right now.
    Doesn’t it sound like a survival reality show? The girls going out during summers?

    I loved the storyline that you’ve written. I’ll see if I can get my hands on it. Your review has made me curious.

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