Published by Little, Brown on 4/16/2013
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With memories of nothing but the polygamous compound they were raised on, sisters Amity and Sorrow long for home when their mother, Amaranth, packs them up and drives for days to escape. Amaranth reaches the dry plains of Oklahoma before her heavy eyes betray her and she crashes the family car, destroying her chances of completely getting away. Thankfully, she wrecks near land owned by Bradley, a lonely farmer willing to help, but unaware of the swirling family dynamics he is about to take on.
Though it starts immediately after the car crash with little background information to settle in on, the novel soon gains its footing as Amaranth begins to reveal pieces of her former life. As the first of fifty wives, she raised her daughters under the strict religious code dictated by her husband. However, Amaranth can only overlook the moral gray area the group survives in for so long before deciding to save her daughters from her husband’s next move.
“Children were curious, even her children. How would they know where their own bodies stopped and someone else’s began if everything was shared? Here, in this world, there were women on display, spread-eagled over paper, women who looked like whores but weren’t, while her family, her children, were dressed like saints, like nuns or pilgrims, but were not and never had been.”
Once the family takes shelter on Bradley’s Oklahoma farm, conflict brews between Sorrow, who is determined to return to life with her father, and easily adapting Amity. Riley’s writing begins to shine, in dark but beautifully penned passages. Though much of the novel is not easy to read, Amity & Sorrow digs to the depths of human connection in an eerily compelling way.