Although Amity & Sorrow is a fairly short novel at just 284 pages in the advance paperback edition, it is an intense and at times very difficult story to read. The subject matter is quite harrowing, and a subject that is rarely touched upon in fiction, and the writing is quite unique and distinct - it takes a little while to get used to the style.
Amaranth and her two daughters; Amity and Sorrow are fleeing their home, they have driven across country for four days and the only reason that they have stopped is because Amaranth has crashed the car. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, not knowing where they are, or where to go, they are discovered by Brad - a farmer who seems unconcerned by their plight, doesn't comment on their strange dress and allows them to camp out on his land.
Amaranth cannot let go of her memories and despite the fact that she knows that she had to flee, her thoughts return time and time again to her husband; the father of her girls. Amaranth is his first wife, the first of his 50 wives and she was instrumental in establishing the cult that they have left behind. Amity and Sorrow have no idea what it is like to speak with ordinary people, to allow anyone to see their hair, to walk through a field. They have no conception of what is acceptable behaviour in the real world. All they have known is life as part of a huge family, with rules, with terror, with abuse.
Amity relishes this new world, but Sorrow wants nothing more than to return to her father and their old life.
A lot of this story is told in 'flash back' form - when Amaranth remembers their life and how they were treated. The reader has quite a lot of reading between the lines to do - as events emerge slowly and are often hinted at, rather than explained fully.
Reading Amity and Sorrow reminded me of watching films by director M Night Shyamalan, especially the film The Village. There is a darkness about the writing and about the story that can be quite creepy at times.
Amity and Sorrow is an intriguing story with an ending that is unexpected and quite shocking and leaves the reader with lots of questions.
Peggy Riley is an accomplished author, with an unusual and quite quirky writing style that although fairly difficult to engage with at the beginning, becomes enchanting by the end.
Peggy Riley is on Twitter - follow her here. She also has her own website here
My thanks to Sam Eades from Headline for sending a copy for review.