Gather the Daughters, Jennie Melamed's debut dystopian novel, is a haunting tale about life on an isolated island where women are abused and treated as if their sole purpose is to become a vessel for children.
It's difficult to choose what the most disturbing thing about the Island is — incest is accepted and fathers are required to rape their daughters as part of their duty, most people die before the age of thirty as once a couple is no longer required (after having their two children) they must commit suicide, and women enter their 'summer of fruition' when they start their period and are then required to start breeding with a man that is much older than them (we're talking about girls who are between the ages of eleven and fourteen, most get drugged during the summer). The things that happen on this island are absolutely chilling. Despite how sick to the stomach these things make you feel, you've got to look at this society with a cultural relativism lens, as much of the people on this island don't know any better.
One of the things I liked was how Melamed never dived into what life was like for those in the 'wastelands'. It's not until the new family arrive on the island that we begin to understand that the 'wastelands' are a fantasy. I enjoyed the mystery and wondering what was happening outside of the seclusion of the island. Though I would have liked to have seen a perspective that showed the 'wastelands' reaction to the island, I don't think it would have added anything to the story. I already know what my world is like and a highlight for me was reading a story that was told in multiple perspectives that had zero understanding or pre-existing knowledge of the world outside of their cult. At times, I tried to put myself in their frame of mind and imagine what it would be like to have so many unknowns.
This book gives insight into the darkness of womanhood, particularly the human experience of living in a patriarchal dominated society. As I mentioned before, a woman's only purpose is to have children on the island. Though men are also responsible for this as well in the breeding process, they are men when they enter this period of their lives, unlike the girls who are barely teenagers. Their childhood is stripped from them and the best years of their adolescence are focused on raising children when they're still children themselves. It's an awful world they live in and it made me a little emotional whenever I thought about the real life cults that are probably practising this way of life and we have no idea that it's happening.
Gather the Daughters is an emotional and heartbreaking book. Many of the scenes will haunt you, and reading it will take you on a journey through an array of unsettling emotions.
Release date: July 25th 2017 by Tinder Press