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Amity & Sorrow

Peggy Riley.
Publisher Back Bay  
Format paperback
ISBN 9780316220873
Pages/Publication Date 336/2014
Daedalus Item Code 38737
This item is not available.
Two teenage sisters sit in the backseat of a car, bound together at the wrists by a strip of white cloth. Their mother Amaranth drives for days without pause, desperate to get away from the husband that she fears will follow them wherever they go. Amity and her older sister Sorrow cannot comprehend why they're fleeing, nor fathom what exists outside their father's compound, which they shared with his 50 wives and innumerable children. Exhausted, Amaranth wrecks their car in rural Oklahoma, but the trio are rescued by a farmer named Bradley, himself no stranger to loss and uncertain futures. At first unsure about the odd, prayerful trio, Bradley eventually accepts them as they are, and the four become a new kind of family. This is Peggy Riley's mesmerizing debut novel about belief, redemption, and the bonds at the heart of extreme faith. An expatriate Californian on Britain's North Kent coast, Riley has had award-winning plays produced in London and her short fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio.

"In this accomplished, harrowing debut ... chapters alternate between the present and the past, which reveals communal life with 50 wives (Amaranth is the first) and their husband, Zachariah. Here, arbitrary rules are made in the name of God, and women are given skills for Armageddon and taught to embrace the end of the world. Two events precipitate the flight: a fire in the temple and the discovery that Zachariah has been molesting his daughter, Sorrow, convincing her he is God and that, together, they can make Jesus. In the present, Amaranth comes to view farmer Bradley, owner of the farm where they crashed, as a chance to start over, but damaged Sorrow, who reads oracles in a blue pottery shard, remains steadfastly tied to her beliefs and community. Twelve-year-old Amity, meanwhile, hopes to heal her older sister. Award-winning playwright Riley's descriptive prose is rich in metaphor, and each of her three nuanced main characters are bound in different ways to the overarching theme of the novel: all journeys are made in faith. Owing a debt of gratitude to Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which Riley acknowledges, this story is slow to build, but the haunting literary drama simmers to a boil as it deftly navigates issues of family, faith, community, and redemption."Booklist (starred review)

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