A dystopian novel set in an unspecified future about a patriarchal colony living on an island off the US, and the young woman who begin to resist the ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and strict rationing of knowledge and history that keeps them subjugated.
Gather the Daughters, Jennie Melamed’s debut novel, presents a world in which child abuse has been normalized, even sanctified, and in which the salutary pleasures available to girls and women are few and far between — a world in which girls make a harrowingly quick journey from childhood to motherhood to death ...shares a genetic code with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It imagines a world in which reproduction is heavily controlled, and where women and girls must submit — totally — to male authority ... These sons end up as ghostly narrative curiosities in Melamed’s novel, bearing no resemblance to the cruel men who lord over the island’s women.
Gather the Daughters is set in the alternative reality of a misogynist dystopia ... Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has had many imitators, and nothing about Jennie Melamed’s setting is particularly inventive, but characterisation is strong and the focus on the leadership and strategic skills of pubescent girls is refreshing ... Narrative tension builds as skillful characterisation fills the reader with growing concern for the central voices ... This is not an unusual novel, but it is a strong example of its kind. And an account of what happens to the rising generation when islanders decide to cut themselves off from the neighbouring mainland to pursue a fantasy of conservatism.
Melamed, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, has drawn on her professional background to depict the interior lives of girls and women caught in such a brutal, cloistered world. She offers strong and at times poetic images of the natural environment in which her story takes place — terrain that sounds a lot like the islands in Puget Sound. She is less successful at conjuring the man-made surroundings (homes and church) or, more importantly, the process by which the force field of maternal love, as instinctive as the male sex drive, has been stomped out. Such powerful emotions don’t evaporate overnight.