Wednesday 4 September 2013

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

AMITY & SORROW is a story about God, sex, and farming. It's THE LOVELY BONES meets WITNESS: an unforgettable journey into the horrors a true believer can inflict upon his family, and what it is like to live when the end of the world doesn't come. 

In the wake of a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her barely-teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow, and flees from the cult her husband ran. After four days of driving, Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. 
AMITY & SORROW is the story of these remarkable women, their lives before the night they fled, and their heartbreaking, hopeful future. For, while Amity blossoms in this new world, Sorrow will move heaven and earth trying to get back home.
And, meanwhile, the outside world hasn't forgotten about the fire on the compound.


When Amaranth flees from her cult with her two daughters, their car crashes and they are inadvertently  taken in by a farmer called Bradley. Ammaranth is frightened that her husband will come after them, but her daughter Sorrow will do anything to get back to him.

As the story unfolds we learn about the world that they have come from. It is quite disquieting just how little Amity and Sorrow know of the outside world and how neither of them can even read or write or have ever seen a TV or computer. They have come from a highly religious, polygamous cult with one man and his fifty wives and the children he had with each of them. Their world is shocking to say the least and I had to remind myself sometimes that this novel is written in modern times.

I was most harrowed by Sorrow's character. I know it was not entirely her fault for the way she acted and the things she did due to the brainwashing of the cult; it is all she has ever known. Sorrow has been led to believe that she is the 'Oracle' and she craves religious power. So when her Mother takes her away, the way Sorrow acts is partly out of fear. She does not like the world outside of her cult and how she suddenly isn't significant. Her sister Amity is the complete, mirror opposite, she is more willing to accept and act differently in this unknown world and is a more sympathetic character. Amity was the character that I felt the most sympathy for, especially as she endured the most of Sorrow's cruelty.

I was reminded of ROOM by Emma Donoghue when reading this, as it explores the impact of bringing a child up in a closeted world and then forcibly taking them from it, when it is all they have ever known.

Although the storyline is an uncomfortable read at times, I really enjoyed Peggy's way of writing and it meant that I whizzed through this book. Peggy has a simple, sparse narrative, that gives you just the right amount of information that you need to be able to continue with the story, but compels you to read on.

A dark and haunting read at times, it is unlikely that you will empathise with any of the characters due to their cult upbringing; but your curiosity will draw you into their unfamiliar culture.

Amity and Sorrow is available from Amazon UK 



  1. I just saw the words God, sex and farming in the same sentence and now I am intrigued! This sounds like quite a story. I haven't read anything quite like this so I'll be adding this to my wishlist :) Great review!

    Laura @ What's Hot?

    1. Thanks Laura! It really is one of those reads that peaks your curiosity!