Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication date: 28th March 2013
There aren’t many books that can be described by the hashtag #GodSexFarming, but Tinder Press’ second title is one of the few. Peggy Riley’s debut novel is fascinating and disturbing look at how hard it can be to escape from a former life.
It opens with a car crash. Amaranth has been driving without sleep for days, trying to get her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, as far away as possible from their previous home. As the first wife of a charismatic preacher at the heart of a polygamous cult, Amaranth has first-hand experience of the effect that her daughters’ father can have on people and when a mysterious fire rips through their compound, she gathers her strength and the girls and drives with no real idea of a destination.
The crash occurs just outside a farm owned by Bradley, a taciturn divorcee who lives with his aged father and surrogate son, Dust. Against his better judgement, he finds himself sheltering the three escapees, two of whom have never before experienced life in the ’real world’. Amity tentatively embraces her new life, enjoying the novelty of being free to venture further than she had previously been allowed, but Sorrow fights it at every opportunity. Convinced by her father that she is ‘chosen’, she shows definite sociopathic tendencies as she attempts to destroy any happiness that her sister and mother find away from the compound.
Life within the cult is revealed in a series of flashbacks, revealing Amaranth’s history and her reasons for marrying the preacher in the first place, as well as highlighting the complicated relationships, friendships and rivalries between the many women all ‘wedded’ to the same man.
Riley’s prose is lyrical and gorgeous, with descriptions that frequently made me pause and re-read. There is a particular passage where the women are spinning around in celebration that highlights Riley’s skill with cinematic imagery and also gives a suggestion of the appeal of living with so many other people who are linked by a common belief. Most of the sections of the novel set in the compound are dark and disturbing so these tiny moments of light really shine through.
The novel is a both a slow-burner and a page-turner; parts are hard to read but I couldn’t turn away. Amity and Sorrow was one of the best books I read last year and I’m thrilled that it’s finally out in the wild!
Peggy Riley will be appearing on the blog in April and there might even be a giveaway so keep your eyes open.
I was sent a review copy by the lovely Tinder Press in return for an honest review – thanks guys.