Monday, 29 April 2013

Amity & Sorrow

When an author describes her novel as a tale of "God, sex and farming", it's hard to know what to expect. Having weighed this up against all the buzz that's been surrounding it, I delved in.

I wasn't disappointed.
Amity & Sorrow is an exciting read and instantly you're plunged into the action as mother Amaranth and daughters Amity and Sorrow speed away from all the girls have known. The urgency of their escape is slowly revealed through cleverly interwoven flashbacks to their time as first wife and eldest daughters in a polygamous cult. We follow them as they settle on a farm (some better than others) run by a lonely abandoned husband, living with his adopted son and elderly father, with a mixture of fear and hope that they would be found.

Peggy Riley's characters are brilliantly crafted and immediately credible. Amaranth tries to right the mistakes that has seen her children grow up without knowledge of the world. This ignorance, designed to protect them, has corrupted them in ways that Amaranth could never have foreseen. I loved the characters of both sisters too; Amity, apparently blessed with healing powers and open-minded to a new life, and reluctant Sorrow, stubborn and longing for her old existance with an increasingly terrifying ferocity.

The creation and collapse of Amaranth's idyll is recounted and the consequences seen in the damage done to her daughters. There are parallels with the life of farmer Bradley as he seeks to keep his farm afloat and is alone, and offers the family kindness even in the face of Sorrow's destruction.

Riley's creation is a masterful one. She crafts great villains whilst also offering hope; darkness is never far from light. The novel's themes are powerful and gritty and elements of it are disturbing. Amity & Sorrow isn't a light read, but is all the more rewarding for it. With strong links to the Branch Davidians and frequent references to Waco, this is a cautionary (rather than sensationalist) tale of how power and greed corrupts, as well as a fascinating view of one family's escape from the sinister grip of a polygamous cult.

This was a really enjoyable, thought-provoking book. For me it definitely lived up to the hype and was one that made me groan at the end of my commute when I had to stop reading for a while. I would warn that it's not necessarily for the faint-hearted, but is rewarding nonetheless.

(Available from Amazon)


  1. Great review, going to add this book to my list.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I hope you enjoy it, I found it a really rewarding read.


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