Well that was a disturbing read. Gather the Daughters is told from the point of view of several girls living on an island in what can only be described as a cult. The girls believe something happened in the wastelands in the past which means they must stay on their island, living their life the way the ancestors wanted. There is a lot that is not explicit in Jennie’s writing but it’s clear early on that the girls are being lied to.
Laughter for a boy, tears for a girl. Everyone at the birth is supposed to weep if it’s a girl, and now everyone is dutifully crying.
In some ways, their rules are logical to preserve a community on an isolated island, but others will just leave you thinking that the ancestors must have left the wastelands to create a place where paedophiles could thrive. The psychological power of cults and domestic abuse is the only thing stopping the disbelief that the mothers would allow it. The women are all victims, they fear having daughters because they know what will happen.
Girls are married off the summer after their first period, when they are suitable for breeding. They have a summer of fruition by the end of which they will be married off, some already pregnant. The younger children are cast out during this time, living wild on the island for the summer. When a couple’s daughters are married off and have their own children, they can only live for as long as the husband can work. When they are no longer of use, both take the final draft, solving the problem that would be caused by an aging population without healthcare.
We clot up the minds of our daughters with useless knowledge, instead of taking the precious time to teach them to be a solace to their fathers. Wives have forgotten how to support their husbands. We let our aged live too long, past their prime years, for the simple reason that our hearts are soft.
The island is showing the signs of a decreasing gene pool, with more and more “defectives” born. The girls are told they can’t choose a husband with the same second name, obviously because of the consequences of in-breeding. More insidious is the shalt not that forbids touching of girls after they have started bleeding and before their summer of fruition, implying that prepubescent girls are being sexually abused. The shalt not is there to prevent babies born out of incest.
The girls don’t know any better and it’s heartbreaking and difficult reading. They are the property of their fathers and must do whatever they want. They love their fathers, they want to be good daughters. Couples are only allowed two children and there’s no birth control, so after the second it is assumed that the men must find their pleasures elsewhere so not to break the rules. It’s sickening. Note, if you’re going to start an island community, make sure to take men that can control themselves.
She can’t see the point of the repetitiveness of it all, people living to create more people and then dying when they’re useless, to make room for even more new people.
Some people question the ways, even small things like asking for the girls to be older before marriage, or their husbands to be the same age. But these people seem to conveniently die of illness or mishap. Janey, one of the girls the story follows, is starving herself to stop her period from starting. Another girl, Amanda, is pregnant with her first child. When she finds out it’s going to be a girl she starts to think it would be better to take their chances in the wastelands.
I think the idea is well executed but I can’t really say I enjoyed this book. The undertones of sexual abuse were a bit too much and there wasn’t an abundance of hope for the girls. At the least, it will make you appreciate being a woman in the here and now.
Gather the Daughters is published by Tinder Press and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 25th July 2017. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.