<i>Gather the Daughters</i> is about a small community that lives with no electricity or modern conveniences on an island. They have a church made of stone that sinks into the ground and a holy book written by “the ancestors.” These ancestors are saint-like founders who, according to tradition, fled the wider world to preserve the human race during an apocalypse.
Traditions are dark and strange on the island, but not questioned because they were written by the ancestors.
The tale is told from the viewpoint of four girls: Vanessa, Caitlin, Janey and Amanda.
<i>”From the fires of wickedness we grew forth, like a green branch from a rotten tree,” he reads. “From the wastelands of want came the hardworking men of industry and promise. From the war-striken terror came our forefathers to keep us safe from harm.” Like everyone else, Vanessa mouths the words along with him.</i> loc 122, ebook.
Because of the small number of people on the island, everyone has an assigned job- that they keep for life. Reproduction, meetings and courtships are also controlled by tradition.
Sometimes the way things are done seem irrational or cruel, but the community does not change. Take the perpetually sinking church: <i>”Every ten years or so, when the roof is almost level with the ground, all the men on the island gather to build stone walls on top of it, and the roof becomes the new floor. Vanessa asked Mother why they couldn’t just use wood, but Mother said it was tradition, and it would be disrespectful to the ancestors to change it.”</i> loc 229, ebook.
Similar to <i>The Handmaiden’s Tale</i>, <i>Gather the Daughters</i> is ultimately about what happens when society dictates and controls relationships, sexuality and education through religious doctrine. It is also examines the male/female balance of power.
<i>Gather the Daughters</i> is a gripping read. But not mysterious. It was fairly clear in my mind from the start where this story was headed, but I cared about the main characters. They have heart and I couldn’t help but want them to live in a better world than the one they were born into.
I could see this being a great choice for book clubs. There’s plenty to talk about, especially with character motivations and the structure of society.
Reader warnings: survivors of childhood sexual abuse could be triggered by this read. There are also some domestic violence scenes.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for a free advance reader’s copy of this book. Reminder: the short quotations that I pulled for this review may vary in the final printed version.
Thanks for reading!