After a cataclysmic event destroyed the country as we know it, a secluded community with its own rules survives in Jennie Melamed’s Gather the Daughters, but the daughters begin to question the rules dictating their lives.
In a community descended from ten ancestor families, whom the community now worships, daughters are trained at an early age by their fathers how to be a good wife. On the island, the population is kept safe by not leaving and having no knowledge of the world beyond their shores, apart from what little their worship book and the Wanderers tell them. Several daughters who have yet to reach puberty, when they’ll go through their summer of fruition and find a husband, begin to question if there’s anything or anyone beyond their island and if they can have a life as anything other than a wife and mother.
There was a lot about the premise of this story that was intriguing, yet it was also utterly frightening in the possibility of this actually happening and disturbing in what it both overtly and obliquely portrayed. While I was disgusted at how the women and girls seemed to accept the men’s behavior as normal, I also couldn’t stop reading to see who might be able to change things and how they might accomplish it. The type of societal structure in the community left women oppressed and submissive, but there were at least some of the young girls who asserted their agency, offering a modicum of an optimistic outlook for the characters (and readers); however, I was disappointed in the character whose actions bring the narrative to its conclusion–it just felt like a let down that while much was changing for this particular family, nothing significant seems to have actually changed.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.