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Gather The Daugh­ters

Jen­nie Me­lamed


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.

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