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Gather the Daughters: A Novel by Jennie…

Gather the Daughters: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Jennie Melamed (Author)

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1561476,544 (3.44)7
Title:Gather the Daughters: A Novel
Authors:Jennie Melamed (Author)
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2017), 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Gather the Daughters: A Novel by Jennie Melamed



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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This has been described a post-apocalyptic dystopia but it’s nothing of the kind. A small religious community ekes out an existence on an island off the coast of the “wastelands”. The novel is told through the narrative of several girls in the community – all aged about twelve or thirteen, and yet to go through puberty. Once they have done so, they will be married off and bear children. A fair few of which may prove to be “defectives” and killed at birth, if they survive it. Melamed tries hard to suggest this is a consequence of whatever apocalypse it was, epidemic or nuclear war, which turned the rest of the world into a wasteland. But it quickly becomes apparent that the girls are being abused nightly by their fathers, and that the community was set up specifically for that end. It also becomes patently obvious that there is no “wastelands” – the world outside has not changed. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was the premise of M Night Shyamalan’s film The Village. So, a group of religious nutjobs founded a community which would allow them to abuse their daughters and treat their wives as chattel. Oh, and euthanise their old people when they no longer proved useful – and they’re not all that old, to be honest, late thirties, perhaps. I don’t know what world Melamed lives in, but these are all illegal and hugely immoral in the real world. I know the US loves its nutjob religious communities and let’s them get away with, well, murder… but the island in Gather the Daughters is only plausible if there really had been an apocalypse. To make matters worse, Melamed completely fails to comment on the world she has built. In crime fiction, the reader witnesses a murder, but then the murderer is brought to justice. The moral consequences of murder are shown. Melamed doesn’t bother. She normalises child abuse and misogyny. She treats the monsters she writes about with total seriousness but makes zero reference to its morality. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, the writing is terrible, the worst kind of creative writing programme prose. You know the phrase, “kill your darlings” that writer instructors like to parrot? If Melamed had done that, Gather the Daughters would have been a third its size. When I saw Gather the Daughters on the shortlist, I thought it looked interesting (after I’d thought, “shouldn’t it be Gather Your Daughters?”). Having now read it, I have to wonder why it was shortlisted. ( )
  iansales | Jun 10, 2018 |
Is it weird that I am drawn to dark stories? Because I was drawn to this one and I could not stop myself from reading all of this in one sitting. How do I begin to describe my experience with this book? Gather the Daughters does not really introduce any new concepts: there are plenty of dystopian novels that give men the power over women, and control breeding and number of offspring. The idea of knowledge being restricted is also not unique. However, there was something about this story that pulled me in and kept me interested. For one thing, this is not a novel you can read quickly; it has a slower pace and to enjoy it, you need to take your time with it. The story is told only from the perspectives of the daughters; there are no adults telling this tale. This is something I really liked because it gave a different outlook to the events. It actually made me more uncomfortable to read it from the voice of these girls who have never known a life outside of this one, who only have their laws to define things as "right" or "wrong", and who still are able to recognize when something being done to them is not okay. It's hard to read about their suffering, which only seems to grow as the story continues. Even though the concepts mentioned here are nothing new, this novel manages to pack a powerful punch. This is not an easy read by any standards, but it is a good one nevertheless. This novel is gripping, disturbing, and emotionally-charged. There is so much more I want to say about this novel, but I don't think I have the words. My final verdict? I'm giving this a 5/5 stars.

For more reviews, visit: www.veereading.wordpress.com ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
This was a very difficult book for me to reviews. It had many things going for it. It was a fairly strong dystopian with an interesting world (an isolated island separated from the rest of the 'destroyed' world). The writing was decent much of the time. Some of the characters were quite interesting. However, the incest storyline killed the entire book. Not just because of the father-daughter 'relationships' but because it made no sense. There was no reason for the incest. It was not germane to the story nor was it necessary for the world. The was some attempt to rationalize the need for incest in the story but it just didn't work. Honestly, at times I felt as if I was reading an attempt at an erotic story written by a man trying to normalize or explain his unnatural urges. My main problem is that the story would have worked quite well without that element. Maybe I'm just too sensitive but, uggghhhh, I just felt slimy after finishing the book. Not recommended. ( )
  J_Colson | Nov 30, 2017 |
I didn't know how much I enjoyed this until the end. Very articulately written, gentle, but disturbing. At first, I didn't think it had enough tension or suspense. But, in fact, it is there, just under the surface of the unsensational writing. Has a great deal to say about gender, family, friendship, sectarianism, religion, and fanaticism -- all of which can be subtle but just as dangerous as overt evil. Ultimately celebrating hope and freedom. A very good read. ( )
  spbooks | Oct 17, 2017 |
I read Gather the Daughters more than a month ago and, regrettably, I'm only now getting to the review. (It's been a busy season for me.) It'd be easier to let my five-star rating speak for itself and move on to books fresher in my mind, but I do not want my praises for this novel to be unheard. So I'm trying my hardest, reaching back through time, back to the experience I had while reading Gather the Daughters. Unfortunately, I know I won't give justice to this wonderful dystopian debut, but I hope my attempt is not completely in vain.

So to start, let's play the comparison game: everyone else is doing it. The publisher is saying that Gather the Daughters is “NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER.” Other reviewers have drawn comparisons to Lord of the Flies, Kindred, and, most notably, The Handmaid's Tale. Personally, I have only read one of these novels: Never Let Me Go. There's no reason I haven't read the others—I just haven't gotten around to them yet. I believe the comparison to Ishiguro's amazing work is one of atmosphere: Gather the Daughters carries with it a hint of the repressive day-to-day living of Hailsham, the boarding school setting of Never Let Me Go. There is a similar burden pressing down on our teenage characters here. And in both books there is a desire to explore past the boundaries of these societies. The comparisons end there.

As far as the other books go, I haven't read them, so I don't know, but I do sense that readers are perhaps a bit too harsh in their judgment. You see, I've come across several reviews on social media that lambaste this story for being too much like some of these others. Don't get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly that when something is a flat-out copy of another, there is an issue. But I don't think anyone is arguing Gather the Daughters is a direct rip of Atwood's famous novel. One may conclude that the issue is that both novels are addressing a similar theme of a repressed society from a feminist perspective. Is there not room for both on this island? It seems to me that those readers who argue for “it has already been done, so any other attempts are worthless” are rather selective. What story hasn't been done a thousand times? Why didn't these same reviewers come out and attack other stories that were more obvious copies? The Hunger Games? Water for Elephants?

So, let's put all comparisons aside and talk about this book, shall we? Gather the Daughters is an amazingly constructed tale that takes the reader into a puritanical, patriarchal society. From the opening pages, I was pulled into the steadily unraveling story told through the perspective of these young teenage girls. Each has a unique voice and view, and I believed their stories entirely. Though I could never keep their names straight—they all have rather common names—once I was a few sentences in, I recalled every detail of the character's earlier chapters. The world these characters inhabit is vivid and realistic. Melamed's language is lush, but not overly ornate.

Despite my positive feelings, as the book progressed, I recognized I was growing a bit apprehensive. Melamed was tackling some very troubling subjects and, as yet, this society seemed to be entirely polarized. Men were abusive and entirely disgusting. Women were innocent victims. Fortunately, around the time that I began to feel annoyed by this, the novelist added some gray to the story. The result is a story that is that much more real and frightening. This no longer felt like a distant tale of propaganda disguised as science fiction, but a speculative story of what could happen given the right formula.

Gather the Daughters is not an easy tale to read. It is brutal and sickening. The most significant abuse is often implied, and when it is shown, it's never in graphic detail. That said, the implications are enough to turn the stomach of many readers; those still struggling from a history of abuse (particularly sexual) may wish to avoid this book for the time being. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to my fellow readers. It's such an incredibly compulsive read.

I said I was done with comparisons, but I changed my mind. I thought of a comparison I like: Gather the Daughters is like a packaged pre-peeled orange. Stripped of its natural layer, it's given a glossy fresh seal, but everyone can see it's just an orange, right? You can ridicule the people who came up with the packaging and those who slapped the labels on the outside. You can say it's a simple orange and refuse to buy into the hype. But put all preconceived notions aside, close your eyes, and take a bite; you'll find the familiar but distinct flavor of an orange unlike any other. How often do two oranges really taste the same?

Take a bite of Gather the Daughters and you'll undoubtedly notice a similarity to other “oranges”. Savor the flavor and you'll begin to notice the differences. And the difference between one good orange and another is all in the flavor. ( )
  chrisblocker | Oct 12, 2017 |
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Vanessa dreams she is a grown woman, heavy with flesh and care. (Prologue)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316463655, Hardcover)

NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 04 Feb 2017 02:47:56 -0500)

A smoldering debut about an insular community on an island at the end of the world and the girls who start to question the rules that bind them.

(summary from another edition)

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