Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Vanessa dreams she is a grown woman, heavy with flesh and care.

– Opening sentence

Gather the Daughters is a dark and uncomfortable novel that I know is going to haunt me for a while.

It follows the story of a small community of island-dwellers, told from the perspective of four young girls. The ‘wastelands’ surrounding their island are full of disease, war and defectives – life on the island is the only life.

Newborn boys are celebrated with laughter, girls with tears.

These girls know that as soon as they experience their first bleed – coming of age – they will be married and have children. That is what happens to all the woman on the island during the ‘summer of fruition’, where all the eligible men and new young woman spend the summer together until they are all paired off and married by Autumn.

This is how it has always been on the island. However, some girls find it difficult.

Janey, who at 17 is the oldest child on the island, starves herself in an effort to delay the first bleed.

Amanda, pregnant with her first child, has the desperate urge to leave. Despite knowing there is no where to go.

Vanessa, a good girl, who just wants to please her Father.

In a time where feminism is a growing movement in society, Gather the Daughters is a relevant novel with strong female characters. Author Melamed has done an excellent job of creating characters who are strong despite their circumstances. In this fictional tale, woman are second to men and must abide by their rules.

And yet, the young woman in this story have a power of their own that they know can never be taken away from them; thought. And despite everything, they are strong.

Gather the Daughters is a heartbreaking and sometimes difficult read. Melamed knows how to disturb and unsettle her readers, in a way that draws you in and makes you keep reading. I’m looking forward to any future work from her!

I’ve purposely written a spoiler-free review, but I must admit I guessed the ending very early on – and I suspect other readers will too. That is not to say that Gather the Daughters isn’t exceptionally well written – because it is.

It’s dark, uncomfortable, brilliant and unputdownable. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, but because of that I LOVED it.

5 Stars (5 / 5)

She can’t tell if it’s the wastelands burning their forever fire, or the sun catching light on human bodies as it rises behind them.

– Final sentence

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