Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

“When a Daughter submits to her father’s will, when a wife submits to her husband, when a woman is a helper to a man, we are worshipping the ancestors and their vision…”

I’m slightly obsessed with books about cults. I’m just fascinated about them, and how people become involved with them. It’s just weird.

I have a list of cult books recommended from various sources, that I’m quickly working my way through; Gather the Daughters is definitely one of the most disturbing ones I’ve read so far.

From the blurb:

On a small isolated island, there’s a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day take charge, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood.

But before that time comes, a ritual offers children an exhilarating reprieve. Every summer they are turned out onto their doorsteps, to roam the island, sleep on the beach and build camps in trees. To be free.

At the end of one of such summer, one of the younger girls sees something she was never supposed to see. And she returns home with a truth that could bring their island world to its knees.

This novel is set in an alternate present or future, after civilisation has been destroyed and the land turned into a wasteland.

Ten men and their families colonised an island and created a society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and control of knowledge. Only the Wanderers, a few chosen men, are allowed to visit the wastelands, and scavenge for useful items left behind.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. When the daughters start to go through puberty, they have their Summer of Fruition, a ritual season to prepare them for marriage.

After the Daughters have children at a very young – around 14 or 15, and their children have children, they are deemed no longer useful, and take their “final draught” to end their lives.

In summer, the younger children are allowed to run wild. They literally run wild around the island, fighting over food and shelter whilst the adults and adolescents in Fruition take part in secret indoor rituals.

At the end of one summer young Caitlin Jacob sees something awful; the Wanderers have committed a terrible crime, or covered it up, and she feels that she has to talk to someone about what happened.

Janey Solomon is an oddity on the island. At seventeen years old she has still not had her summer of fruition and is essentially starving herself to death in her attempt to slow her development. She doesn’t want to become a woman, a wife or mother. She will submit to no-one’s will.

Caitlin, Janey and Wanderer’s daughter Vanessa team up to find out what is going on and what really happened to the wastelands. The girls will no longer submit to the ancestors or their fathers, and an act of rebellion has unimaginable consequences for the whole island.

I would say I loved this book, if it wasn’t so bloody disturbing. Melamed’s vision of a dystopian society is truly horrifying. I could talk about this book for days, and have recommended it to a lot of people. This is a must read. Then come back to me, so we can talk about it without me worrying about spoilers.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars – I was a bit disappointed at the abrupt ending, but that small niggle aside, this is a walloping read.

Cheerio,

Stephani Xx

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