Synopses & Reviews
A mother and her daughters drive for days without sleep until they crash their car in rural Oklahoma. The mother, Amaranth, is desperate to get away from someone she's convinced will follow them wherever they go — her husband. The girls, Amity and Sorrow, can't imagine what the world holds outside their father's polygamous compound. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of Bradley, a farmer grieving the loss of his wife. At first unwelcoming to these strange, prayerful women, Bradley's abiding tolerance gets the best of him, and they become a new kind of family. An unforgettable story of belief and redemption, Amity and Sorrow is about the influence of community and learning to stand on your own.
"Playwright Riley's debut novel is a harsh but compassionate look at nature vs. nurture through the lens of a polygamous cult. Sisters Amity and Sorrow were born and raised by their mother, Amaranth, the first of the 50 wives of a self-proclaimed prophet, the leader — "preacher, father, husband" — of a doomsday sect. When a confrontation with the law results in gunshots and a fire, Amaranth grabs her teenage daughters, steals a car, and drives for four days until, exhausted, she crashes near a gas station in rural Oklahoma. Sorrow, a self-righteous teenage sociopath who will destroy anyone and anything to prove she is God's chosen one, locks herself in the bathroom, where she has a miscarriage. The more compliant Amity is torn between her mother and her sister, on one side, and a world she's never experienced on the other. As they explore this new world, meeting people and making their own choices for the first time, Sorrow, with off-putting self-involvement masquerading as religious fervor, tries to destroy everyone who tries to help them. Riley's mastery keeps this unusual tale from descending into melodrama, and she makes no easy choices. Sorrow's desperate escalations lead to an unsurprising revelation that is no less powerful for its foreshadowing. A fierce and disturbing novel. Agent: Joy Harris, the Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly
"A literary page-turner....Her writing is clear, crisp, chilling." Reader's Digest
"The eponymous title refers to the daughters of Amaranth, the first wife (out of 50) of Zachariah, Messianic leader of a Doomsday cult....Through flashbacks we get glimpses into the lives Amaranth, Sorrow and Amity have led with Zachariah, shielded from the world and subject to his apocalyptic paranoia....Simple in style but complex in tone, this book raises troubling questions about the power of doomladen cults, and their leaders and followers." Kirkus Reviews
"This delicately stitched, finely patterned and poetic novel suggests there is a tipping point at which human resilience disappears." New York Times
About the Author
Peggy Riley is a writer and playwright. She recently won a Highly Commended prize in the 2011 Bridport Prize. Her short fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio and has been published in New Short Stories 4, Mslexia Magazine, and as an app on Ether Books. Her plays have been commissioned and produced off-West End, regionally and on tour. She has been a festival producer, a bookseller, and writer-in-residence at a young offender's prison. Originally from Los Angeles, Peggy now lives on the North Kent coast in Britain. She is currently working on her second novel, which will be set in the women's internment camp on the Isle of Man during WWII.