When I came across the book cover for Amity & Sorrow (written by Peggy Riley), I wasn’t really intrigued, but I also wasn’t really apathetic about it either (if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a pretty visual person). The book cover stated the story to be about this mother and her daughters escaping a cult run by their husband/ father and the cover depicted two girls tied together by a cloth. I’m not super into cult-ish things but I decided to give this book a shot anyway. So here’s the review (I read this book a while ago so please forgive the short and shallow review).
The story-line itself is okay. I personally thought the author did a pretty good job describing the crazy fucked-up nature of the cult and how it morphed from being something semi-okay to something horribly evil. As such, I actually found myself really liking the persistent hold the cult leader had over the women in the story, even after they left. Like for example, the mother character, named Amaranth, had an extremely difficult time going into another man’s house to even look for food for her starving daughters, as she kept on hearing her husband’s voice condemning her. To be clear, it wasn’t the funnest thing to read and actually got kinda annoying after a while, but I still appreciate it (in hindsight LOL) because I think that’s how it is in reality. It’s always hard to break away from what you’ve grown used to believing in. And actually, I think the best part about the book is how it attempts to show how the three different women deal with leaving the cult. The mother, Amaranth, deals with a lot of guilt, anger and fear as she struggles to come to terms with her lifestyle within and outside the cult. The older sister, Sorrow, absolutely refuses to leave behind her father’s cult teachings and clings to the cult rules, often in violent ways. And finally, the younger sister, Amity, comes out of her shell and like a newborn, learns all about the world she was missing outside.
That said, despite some of my praises, the book was also pretty unsatisfying in a more than a few ways. Firstly, I didn’t really like the characters that much. Amaranth is an extremely confusing character. She initially begins the story as this very concerned mother and then morphs into a young girl (?) as she spends more time with the farmer, Bradley, (he houses the girls after their escape, after a chance meeting). It comes to the point where I felt like Amaranth was just happy to play house with Bradley rather than help the girls assimilate into their new society, i.e. she didn’t even care that the girls weren’t educated (they literally couldn’t read or understand simple concepts like maps). I mean, she even remarks upon this, when hanging with Bradley, that she knows about the real world while her daughter’s don’t, and yet she still does nothing about it. I just, I don’t know, I guess I kind of found her behaviour neglectful? And Sorrow’s character was just really not fleshed out. She was straight up psychotic. Like insanely psychotic but no character really remarks upon this and it’s not even really discussed. I would’ve really liked some more insight into her thoughts, rather than just having her actions/ ideas be translated by her sister. And finally, Amity. I wasn’t sure what to feel for her. Her child-like curiosity eventually got on my nerves (that’s just me though, I’m guessing other’s wouldn’t be so annoyed). And I really, really, really, REALLY disliked her blind love for her sister Sorrow. I just, I couldn’t understand it? What was it that bound her to her sister like that? Like for example, Sorrow literally slices Amity’s palms open, locks her in a dark room, and burns her damn hands and YET Amity still sees her favourably (minus a few jealous feelings, that too over a boy of all things omg). It doesn’t really make sense to me.
And the writing/ story itself was okay as well, nothing spectacular in my opinion. The writing was a little disjointed a times and it wasn’t always easy to follow. The book also deals with a few really dark themes though, so I’d definitely warn readers to be cautious if they don’t like reading about stuff like that (I’m deliberately not listing the exact dark themes because I feel they’d give away quite a bit of the story). So yeah, I guess I’m just kinda apathetic and semi-bitter after reading this. I had expected more.
My rating: read it if you want to get annoyed or about read dark themes, but you can miss this otherwise (there are much better books about cults out there than this one).