Gather The Daughters
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was given a new lease of life this year with Hulu’s excellent television adaptation – and now, here’s a new novel beating the same drum.
In Gather the Daughters, a cult exists on an isolated island. Members of the community are told by their leaders that the outside world is a dangerous, burning wasteland. But this new world that the “wanderers” have created is far from perfect. There is no electricity and there are no machines or beasts of burden to make their subsistence lifestyle more efficient.
Boys are raised knowing they will grow up to be masters. Girls are raised knowing they will be nothing more than servants and breeders. And forget the 10 commandments: the set of rules this outfit runs on has quite a few more, including “thou shalt not allow thy wife to stray in thought, deed or body” and “thou shalt not allow women to gather without a man to guide them”.
Before they settle down to the drudgery of their prescribed lives, though, teenagers of both sexes must go through a rite of passage called “the summer of fruition”. Set free from their homes to roam wild in a very Lord of the Flies fashion, they run, fight, sleep on the beach and camp in the trees – and by the end of it all they are expected to have found a mate.
The book revolves around four girls, Janey, Amanda, Vanessa and Caitlin, and it is at the end of one of these summers that one of the girls witnesses something she was never supposed to see. She returns to the village with a nugget of truth that could blow the community apart forever. A riveting, disturbing tale.