There comes a book that simply makes you think. Amity & Sorrow is definitely the type of book that makes me think about religion, family, mothers, sisters, and home. Peggy Riley has managed to make a beautiful novel from some pretty difficult subjects such as incest, polygamy, cults, and abuse. Riley manages to make this novel not one of sadness or lasciviousness yet still tell the truth in a very insightful, truthful way.
Amaranth and her daughters, Amity and Sorrow, are found by a farmer named Bradley after having crashed their car on his property. Amaranth's been driving for four days straight to put as much distance between herself and her husband Zacariah of whom she is afraid will find her. Bradley is a little taken aback by the woman and her girls dress and the fact that they are bined together by fabric. Bradley is unable to conceal his concern or his crabby nature. Bradley offers them refuge at his home until they can evaluate what to do and where to go.
Early in this novel Riley subjects the readers to one of the major issues that concerns this novel Sorrow's miscarraige in a gas station bathroom. Although Riley makes it evident that there is something amiss with this family and that perhaps they have been abused maybe sexually, physically, and mentally. Riley slowly pulls down the layers that are these people we meet on their way to finding a new life.
The characters in this novel are especially well drawn and have such depth and richness. Bradley, the widow, was my favorite character. I loved his honesty in telling Amaranth to get her self together and she's the reason her children are the way they are. Amaranth's character explores the depth's a mother will go to in order to protect her children and family. Amity is only one ready to move forward but she's still evidently naive. Sorrow is just what she is named for. She longs to be back at the temple with her father who she believes is the only true preacherman. I don't blame her for the way she is but I found her to be very defective and inexorable. She reminds me of a lot of people in my family that are "super" Christians in regards to her belief in her faith.
The book switches between the past and the present seemlessly. I'm happy that Riley included the past and how Amaranth came to be a part of a religious cult. That is always the first thing on anyone's mind. The next is how/why did you leave. Amaranth's story is similar to nonfiction accounts of how she became an accomodating first of 50 wives.
Amity & Sorrow is a culmination of a lot of ideas that can be discussed and researched for ever. I've tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. So I conclude by saying that I did like this book a lot with its clever plot and poetic lines. The ending was perfect, although a little dreadful, but I don't see how it could have ended any better. Lover's of women's literature will need to read this book. ****