Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daughters - Jennie Melamed 1 star

Every now and again, I pick up a book, read it, and wonder what the HELL did I just read? This is one of those books. Gather the Daughters is a dystopian, set on an island where the inhabitants, descended from ten Ancestors, follow the Shalt-nots. Their society is repulsive, the women oppressed and abused from the time they are young children. There is nothing as sacred as the relationship between fathers and daughters, and that right there was almost a “nope, I’m not reading this” premise. I mean – ICK.

During the summer, the children run wild on the island, living outside like wild animals. Every household leaves food out for them, as they sow their wildness. After a summer of no adults and no rules, they are forced back into their grim, joyless lives, the girls waiting with dread for the onset of puberty.

Once they bleed, the girls go through a summer of fruition. All of the newly matured women and all of the single men spend the summer getting to know each other, so they can pair off and choose a husband or wife to begin their adult lives together. What this basically means is that the summer is an orgy that moves from one host house to the next, with the men wooing and screwing the girls. And they are girls. Keep in mind that these newly matured women are typically 13 – 15 years old. Ugh.

But that’s not the gross part of the novel. It’s the relationships between the fathers and their young daughters. What the HELL am I reading? The men sneak into their daughters’ rooms and prepare them for their year of fruition. HELL NO!

The book is told through the POV of several of the girls. They are terrified of their fathers, some of them aren’t just molested sexually, but are also physically abused, beaten for any disobedience. Bruises and black eyes aren’t unfamiliar. When Janey Solomon begins a rebellion, getting the other girls to run away from home and live on the beach, the adults don’t know what to do. Can Janey, a girl of 17 who starves herself half to death to avoid becoming a woman and being forced into her summer of fruition, make a change in how the girls are treated? Don’t bet on it.

Did I mention that once a husband and wife have grandchildren, and can no longer function at full capacity as contributing members of this society, they are ritualistically killed, their bodies planted in the fields to fertilize the crops? No? Yeah, just another sterling example of how benevolent and nurturing this society is.

This book did not work for me. On any level. I started skimming about halfway through just to find out if any of my questions would be answered. They weren’t. I didn’t feel like I ever got to know the characters, and the world didn’t feel fully fleshed out. The society was repellent. NEXT!