Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Once there was a young wife who was making her first ham dinner. She carefully sliced the end off of the ham before putting it into the roasting pan.

Her husband queried, "Why did you cut the end of the ham off?"

"Because," the wife replied, "that's how Mom always did it."

The husband suggested, "You should ask your mom why."

So, when her folks arrived for dinner the young wife asked, "Mom, why do you cut the end of the ham off?" "Because," the mother replied, " otherwise it wouldn't fit into my roasting pan."

We are sometimes slaves to tradition, chanting 'it's always been done that way.' We do not consider the reasons behind received wisdom and the custom of the country. When tradition has the church or government behind it, there is even less reason to question its validity.

Once in a while, a rare mind arises that sees another possibility, a higher moral order; someone sensitive to the lives of individuals caught in a crushing system. They preach, they lead, they stand up against the system, and engender a new vision of how things can be.

First, someone has to question why we do things the way we do.

Presented for your consideration:

An island with a small separatist society, refugees from a violent world consumed by war and fire.

They have inherited a faith and laws from their founders. Like other tribal societies, their strict rules make their survival possible. There shall be no more than two children per family. When adults become superfluous they drink the potion. Dutiful wives and daughters are the foundation of society. Wives must submit to their husband, daughters their father.

The daughters hate their lives. They dream of escaping their father's caresses, the early marriages, the horror of childbirth too often resulting in 'bleeding out' or delivering a mutant child. They wish they could enjoy their childhood summers of wild freedom forever.

One girl resists, inciting a rebellion and setting off a chain of events that brings retribution and reveals horrifying secrets.

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed is a hard novel to read. The cult is so despicable and perverse, I was conflicted by what I was reading and physically felt stressed. The author is a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in traumatized children and child sexual abuse. She knows what she is portraying in the novel. And she does it very well.

The novel was also compelling, with sympathetic characters and enough mystery to keep me turning pages. Without graphic descriptions, the author subtly implies the girl's hated realities.

When I finished I asked what did the novel offer to redeem the horror I felt as reading? Why would someone read this book? What can it teach me?

And I remembered the sermon illustration I'd heard long ago about the ham and the daughter imitating without understanding.

This dystopian novel is a warning.

Everything we do because it's the way people do things can be reconsidered. The Protestant Reformation, the American Revolution, votes for women, Civil Rights--these movements all arose because a few people questioned and challenged the established order.

But also we should consider the 'little' things we do. How we spend our time or our money. We buy a product without considering its human cost or environmental impact. We allow advertising to drive our purchase choices.

I won't soon forget these brave daughters willing to fight for dignity and wholeness. May they inspire us all.

Jennie Melamed lives with two Shiba Inus. I approve. I have two myself.
Kamikaze and Suki, our Shiba Inu
mill mother rescues
I received a free book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Gather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed
Little, Brown & Co
Publication July 25, 2017
$26 hardcover
ISBN: 978031643652