5 out of 5 stars
You want some horror? Here’s something horrific for you.
I like horror books, horror movies, grimdark novels, all things dark and twisted. I mean really, the more fucked up the better. I studiously studied serial killers as a teenager. You can go ahead and question my state of mind or sanity, but I tell you this for two reasons. One, in case you haven’t realized all the bizarre, dark things I enjoy based on my reading yet (or if you don’t know me personally) and two, to show you exactly how horrific this novel is…It may have left me scarred.
This is quite possibly one of those stories that is going to manage to give me nightmares. Everyone talks about the likes of A Handmaid’s Tale, which is a renowned for scaring people, especially women, but this, this is better and yet worse. Better for the writing and story, and worse because it manages to be even more horrifying. In case you missed it, the word of the day, as least pertaining to this novel, is ‘horrifying’.
On an island lives an isolated society of people, who survived some apocalypse thanks to the likes of their original ten ancestors. They worship their ancestors who answer for them to the likes of some God. Mostly though, they’re just concerned with what their ancestors would think about them. The ancestors set together a moral code of shalt-nots for people to live by, the wanderers (the few men who can travel into the wastelands to scavenge for things they need) have expanded these rules over the generations. This is a society ruled firmly by men, women are tasked with the care of the house and producing two children. Two is the limit. Once a couple has two children, they live only as long as they contribute to the community. When they reach the point where they cannot help any longer they drink a death tonic together, then their bodies are buried under the soil to fertilize the crops. Sounds pretty bleak so far, right? It gets much worse.
Daughters are expected to submit their fathers in everything. It is wildly known, and expected (hell pretty sure it’s in the rules) that fathers can have sex with their daughters up until they have their first period. Then, they’re off limits. That’s right, only then. It doesn’t matter what age they are, only that they get their period. The perverted thought behind this being that, it’s better their father teaches them than some man who may not be as “nice”. Then, the “of-age” girls and boys go to their summer of fruition. Which basically means, a summer of sex with anyone and everyone but, at the end they must choose a husband. They will marry by autumn and begin trying to have babies, then the ugly cycle repeats itself.
The story itself is about four girls who attempt to escape this life or attempt to pry the secrets of the community apart. You get a dark look into each of their lives and it leaves you rooting for every single one of them to get out.
The author’s work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner that specializes in traumatized children burns vividly throughout the novel. It’s probably weird to say that a book so dark and horrifying is amazing, but it is. This is one you won’t stop thinking about anytime soon.