Amity & Sorrow, by Peggy Riley

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley to review, on behalf of the publisher. 

15790893Peggy Riley’s Amity & Sorrow is sparely written, but it doesn’t need many words to get its point across. The eponymous characters were raised in a homespun cult somewhere in Oregon. The novel opens with their mother, Amaranth, fleeing with her daughters and crashing her car into the only tree in the Oklahoma panhandle. The chapters detailing Amaranth and her daughters life after the cult are interspersed with chapters about their life before Amaranth fled.

In those flashback chapters, we learn that the nameless cult was founded by Zachariah, a lost boy from an FLDS compound. At first, he was just married to Amaranth, but he convinced her to let him take a second wife to secure a farm in Oregon. After that, more and more wives showed up until there were fifty. Zachariah and Amaranth didn’t exactly mean to create a cult. But they create rules and rituals between them, to the point where the children don’t learn how to read and write, wear “bindings,” and worry constantly about the end of times. Even more disturbing, we learn more about life as one of Zachariah’s wives. It’s strange how often sex and eschatology go together. Peggy Riley’s Amity & Sorrow is sparely written, but it doesn’t need many words to get its point across. The eponymous characters were raised in a homespun cult somewhere in Oregon. The novel opens with their mother, Amaranth, fleeing with her daughters and crashing her car into the only tree in the Oklahoma panhandle. The chapters detailing Amaranth and her daughters life after the cult are interspersed with chapters about their life before Amaranth fled.

Amity and Amaranth are better at living in the outside world than Sorrow is. Sorrow acted as the cult’s Oracle, a strange role in which she reported the signs of the apocalypse. She is a very disturbing character and nothing anyone else does can get through to her, not even learning that there are other prophets running around (some of them on TV) doing their own schtick. As I read more about Sorrow, I wondered whether a deprogrammer could even help in this case or whether Sorrow was actually mentally ill. Even Amaranth needs time to shake off the rules of cult life.

Small spoilers ahead.

Amity & Sorrow is a wonderful psychological study. Riley has a deft touch. I would have rated the book higher if it weren’t for the ending. All through the book, Amaranth is terrified of what her husband might do if he ever catches up with them. She left because she thought he burned down their temple and tried to kill them. As Amaranth worries and frets, you start to feel like Zachariah really is about swoop down at any minute. When I got to the

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