I don’t read blurbs as a rule. I judge a lot of books by their covers, and covers don’t get much better than this. I received this book free as an ARC from NetGalley. I did not receive anything in exchange for this review, not even a lousy box of MoonPies. I’ll get over it.
I have put off reviewing this one for as long as I could. I have had a hard time deciding if I didn’t like the book, or if I was just disappointed in where the author chose to take me. After much thought, I’d have to say it’s a bit of both.
I wanted to love this book. It opens with a woman, Amaranth, driving down the road as though the devil is behind her. She has taken her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, and is escaping her abusive cult-leader of a husband. She’s making like a shepherd and getting the flock out. Good for her! Drive, woman, drive! I like strong women.
But was she really all that strong? It bothered me that she jumped to offer certain, er, favors to the farmer who gives them sanctuary. Was she really strong and taking one for the team? Come to think of it, can the farmer be considered as offering them sanctuary in the first place if they’re sleeping on the porch and he keeps telling them he wants them to leave? These are the kinds of questions that I suppose I could discuss with a book club, but it would be a meeting where I spent the whole discussion looking like this:
The book is supposed to be character driven, and Amaranth drives the book the same way she drives a car – until it’s kind of a wreck. There’s some argument among writers whether or not we should write what we know. When reading this book, I felt like the author was writing about things she had merely read about. Her descriptions of the cult were terrifying and real, but I felt like the closest she has ever gotten to Oklahoma was The Grapes of Wrath. It’s all dust and “drouth.” I can’t remember how the author spelled it, and I don’t care enough to search for it. This word may have been the final nail in the coffin for me. I had a professor who used this variation on “drought,” and it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I didn’t understand Amity, and I don’t think the author did, either. Near as I can figure, she’s about thirteen. I don’t think the average thirteen year old imagines jumping the bones of a boy she just met, much less a kid who was raised in an ultra-conservative cult and isn’t allowed to talk to men. She has seen a sex act, but she certainly didn’t recognize it for what it was.
I just read the blurb on Goodreads and thought “Wow! That sounds like a book I’d like to read!” It definitely wasn’t the book I got. I give it 3.25/5 stars. It was readable. I didn’t hate picking it up, but it fell short in too many places. It’s like a bowl of jello that never sets – it tastes fine, but it’s not as solid as it should be.