Review published on June 27, 2017.
Gather the Daughters tells the story of a small patriarchal island community, isolated from the outside world, where girls are married and expected to become pregnant as soon as they reach puberty. The children are allowed to roam free from the community’s constraints every summer, and it is at the end of one summer in the novel that one of the girls sees something that forces her to question their lives and threatens to break the community.
I loved this book. Told from the alternating viewpoint of four of the island girls, I rooted for all of them (and their female counterparts) as they gradually change from accepting the mundane horror of their everyday lives to questioning their role in their male-dominated society (or not, as the case may be.) You desperately want them to challenge and escape their confines, and the author has done an excellent job with both the community and the characters’ portrayal. Jennie Melamed also deals very well with the problem of the outside world in relation to the community, so that the reader doesn’t just automatically think “Why don’t they just try and escape?” There are some issues within the community that are obviously unpleasant, but these are portrayed as sensitively as they can be.
I think Gather the Daughters is going to be a huge success. There are plenty of themes within it for book group discussions. It’s one of those books that you’ll want to tell everyone about as it has an interesting, very readable story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. Given the current popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale, there will obviously be some parallels between the two, but Gather the Daughters stands on its own two feet and is a very worthy addition to the genre.
Judith Griffith 5/5
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Tinder Press 9781472241702 hbk Jul 2017