Friday, 4 January 2013

Amity & Sorrow - M's review

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
Adult fiction review
Tinder Press said the stories were coming. We said some of M's adult fiction reads were going to be reviewed. It's a new year, so here's the first: Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley from Tinder Press.....

Amity and Sorrow are teenage sisters. They’ve grown up in their father’s end-of-the-world religious cult that literally cut them off from any outside life or knowledge of the world. Amity and Sorrow only know what has been allowed onto their patch of land which they shared with the other wives, their half-siblings and their father at the centre.

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
The story starts with Amaranth, their mother, driving them away from this life into the middle of somewhere in the United States. They become stranded and end up squatting on a dusty farm inhabited by struggling farmer Bradley, Dust and a knocking sound. Amity & Sorrow arrive tied to one another at the wrists with Sorrow’s skirts caked in blood.

While unravelling the sequence of events that led to them running away (these are not pretty events!), the novel particularly explores the impact that their beliefs have on them once they are exposed to the ‘outside’ world. This is difficult when they aren’t allowed to speak to men, to stand in a field or to enter the farmhouse. Can they adapt to survive in this society or shall they return home to whatever awful fate is likely to await them there?

The novel succeeds particularly well in exploring the individual difficulties that the three of them have in developing relationships with people outside of their community as they are bound by constricting beliefs and rules that have limited their knowledge of the world. They become their own worst enemies in their bid for survival – or even a return to their home.

Amity & Sorrow is fraught with tension from the first page. The pace of the novel is slow and pays attention to exquisite relationship and identity details. It is sped up only through the narrative which flips back and forth between present, past and further past and then all comes together in a faster paced ending. After a couple of chapters, once I had a handle on the characters, it became quite an absorbing read. It is a frighteningly plausible story and will resonate with many readers.

Aspects of the ending were a welcome surprise to me even if some of them are not so pretty either. Some of the tension is relieved which enables the story to carry on in your mind (although some bits you might prefer not to think about further!).

Amity & Sorrow is Peggy Riley's first novel. It contains themes of abuse, sex and religious cults.

I really enjoyed Amity & Sorrow and would highly recommend it to adults.

Publication details: Tinder Press, 28 March 2013, London, hardback
 This copy: uncorrected proof received for review from the publisher

This novel counts towards M's British Books Challenge 2013.


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