Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed #Review @jennie_melamed @littlebrown

Gather the Daughters cover

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is the story of a group of people living on an isolated island. The story goes that just before the country went up in flames, a small group of men and women brought their families to the island, thus escaping the fate of what would later come to be known as “the wastelands.” The founders formed an entire civilization based around ancestor worship, adhering to the rules set forth by the original inhabitants of the island, such as: limiting the number of children each family is allowed to have, and the declaration that a person may live only so long as they are useful.  Knowledge about the wastelands is practically non-existent, and only an elite group of men known as “the Wanderers” are allowed to go there in order to scavenge for supplies.

The island is a particularly restrictive place for girls. They are simply future wives who will marry and have children. But they are allowed a brief respite from a suffocating life bound by rules (called the “shalt-nots”) when summer arrives. They run wild outdoors, doing whatever they want, every summer… until they reach puberty and their “Summer of Fruition”, which marks their final summer of freedom. When it ends, they will marry and have children of their own.

During the summer, one girl sees something horrific—something that should never have happened on the island—and tells the other girls about it.  This sparks a rebellion led by Janey Solomon, who is determined the uncover the secrets of the island and the wastelands. But on a secluded island bound by generations of traditions and practices that are disturbing (to say the least), will it even matter? And what price will these rebellious girls be forced to pay, in the end?

It’s been over a month since I read this novel and I’ve been struggling with how to review it because I’m conflicted on how I feel about it. So I’m going to do something a little different from my usual review, and focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly. (I’m pretty sure one I saw this approach by one (or more?) of the bloggers I follow, but I’m not sure who it was. Whoever you/they are… thank you for the idea!)

The Good

Simply put, Melamed’s writing is fantastic. Had I been unaware this was her debut novel, I would have assumed she already had a few titles under her belt (or rather, on the shelf). The island society she created is vivid, dark, and disturbing. Every character in the book—major or minor—all have distinct personalities. The different areas of the island and the homes are all described well enough for the reader to easily picture them.

Janey Solomon struck me as a particularly strong character, as well as a tragic one. Each of the four girls whose POVs tell the story are compelling characters, but Janey’s portion of the story, for me, was the most intriguing.

The Bad

After all the build-up about the mystery of the wastelands, we are left with no solid answers, only suspicions. I assumed from the start there would be some sort of twist concerning this mystery, and while it was often heavily hinted at, it never happened. I was extremely disappointed by this.

Another thing that bothered me is that the story ends on a cliffhanger (in my opinion). If it ended this way because a future sequel is in the works, then it’s a good thing—it works as a finale for this portion of the story, and is a great starting point for the next portion. But if this is meant as a stand-alone book, it’s a very bad thing, indeed, because it hinted at a pay-off that wasn’t there. With this sort of ending for a stand-alone novel, even the most brilliantly written book of all time is going to leave me feeling sour once I reach the end.

The Ugly

I’ve previously described this story as dark and disturbing, and with good reason. One of the accepted practices of the island is father-daughter incest. Looking back, I can see that it’s vaguely hinted at in the blurb (“free of their father’s hands”), but it never occurred to me that that’s what it meant. It’s never graphically described, but still…

Final Thoughts

I mostly enjoyed reading this book, but I wasn’t a fan of the lack of resolution regarding the mystery of the island and the cliffhanger ending. That was the deciding factor in the three star rating I’ve given this book.

However… I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Jennie Melamed’s next novel. She’s clearly a fantastic writer, and I’m eager to see what she comes up with next!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Little, Brown and Company via Netgalley.

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Author: Jennie Melamed

Title: Gather the Daughters

Genre: Dystopian

Published: July 25th, 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

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.


About the Author

jennie-melamed
Jennie Melamed
JENNIE MELAMED is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child abuse. Melamed lives in Seattle with her husband and three Shiba Inus.
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The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner #Review @jamielbrenner @littlebrown

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A broken engagement. A forbidden affair. The loss of a prestigious job. The announcement that her parents are getting divorced. What else could possibly happen to shake up Marin Bishop’s already wrecked life?

The final bombshell comes with the arrival of twenty-two year old Rachel Moscowitz—Marin’s half-sister—and the painful discovery that Marin’s beloved father isn’t really her father, after all. Shattered and in denial, Marin nevertheless agrees to travel with Rachel to the Beach Rose Inn in Provincetown, to meet their grandmother, Amelia Cabral. Against her wishes, Marin’s mother, Blythe, accompanies them. The group of women spend the summer getting to know one another as decades-old secrets are finally spoken, and the pain of the past confronted at last.

The Forever Summer is an enjoyable story with some surprising twists thrown into the mix. The characters were well written, with vivid personalities. There were times I found myself annoyed with some of the things Rachel did or said, but in hindsight I think it was because she’s a young woman doing/feeling what young women do, and I wasn’t able to identify with it at this time in my life. (I think I may have just insulted myself there, and inferred I was getting old? Yikes!)

My favorite characters were definitely Amelia and Kelly. Their backstory—as well as Blythe’s—was the most interesting part of the story for me. Nadine, Amelia’s daughter, was extremely unlikable, but she had her reasons for behaving the way she did. There were a few twists in the latter part of the book (some good, others not so good) that really surprised me.

I’m giving this one a solid 3.5 stars. I couldn’t decide between three and four stars, so 3.5 felt right in the end.

If you’re looking for books to add to your summer reading list, I would suggest adding this one to your list.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Little, Brown, and Company and Netgalley.

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Author: Jamie Brenner

Title: The Forever Summer

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: April 25th, 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐½


Purchase Links

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

When a DNA test reveals long-buried secrets, three generations of women reunite on Cape Cod for the homecoming of a lifetime.

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin’s half-sister shows up, and it’s all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s quaint beachside B&B, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin’s life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.

Full of delicious descriptions of coastal New England and richly imagined characters, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotional, hot-topic page-turner and a summer must-read.


About the Author

jamie_brenner
Author Jamie Brenner

Jamie Brenner is the author of The Forever Summer. Her previous novels include The Wedding Sisters and the historical The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press), named by Fresh Fiction as one of the Top Thirteen Books to read in 2013, and Ruin Me, a coming-of-age story set in the art world. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

Author photo via Goodreads. Bio via publisher’s website.

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