First things first, this book is absolutely brilliant.
Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the story of an isolated island cult where girls live as wives-in-training, knowledge of the world outside is kept to a minimum, and men rule everything. Girls must obey and serve their fathers, until their summer of fruition when they must marry and have children. But what happens when inquisitive minds start to question this way of life? Some secrets simply cannot be kept forever.
When I first started this book, I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. The subject matter was rather intense and creepy, and I didn’t particularly like the writing style (different points-of-view, all present tense). However, after the first few chapters I was completely and utterly drawn in, and the style really fit the book. Jennie Melamed’s narrative voice is very strong, while the concept is both fascinating and dreadful. It was similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in the sense that it is a story of female oppression and uprising, but on a very different and original thread. It actually wasn’t really what I was expecting at all, and all the better for it.
It should be noted that the book might need some trigger warnings: the entire concept is based on child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and incest, but this is all implied rather than explicitly referred to. There are no graphic descriptions and the reader is required to fill in the blanks themselves (which can be considered to be better or worse depending on your imagination).
As you may have guessed, some of the implied content is fairly horrific (at least to those of us living comfortable lives in the western world). But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Some parts of the story are fun and uplifting, and the characters are fantastic. I LOVED that this story is told from the point-of-view of the young girls, rather than their mothers, and getting to read the story from the point of multiple girls allowed a full and rounded view of the situation.
My single criticism is that the ending is very unsatisfactory, but it is actually a perfectly apt end to this novel. 5 stars. A must-read.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.