Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Review: Amity and Sorrow

Amity and Sorrow
By Peggy Riley
Little, Brown and Company
Price: $25.99

The fire that sets this story in motion flames through “Amity and Sorrow” in every cleverly crafted scene. It is a dark story about sisters who grew up in what might be considered by some a cult atmosphere. In desperation, their mother Amaranth, snatches them away terrified by escalating threats from outside and unsettling changes from within.

Their flight is interrupted when in utter exhaustion she crashes her car into a tree. Miraculously none of the three are seriously injured, and are rescued by a farmer who reluctantly and with bad grace, befriends them. The story travels back and forth from the uncertain present into a disturbing past. Amity and Sorrow are bound together by more than the strap that links them and keeps Sorrow from running back to the only home she has ever known, despite threats that await her.

“Amity and Sorrow” follows Amaranth, whose trust has been betrayed by the man she believes loves only her, and looks at the “perfect” world created by this man who through polygamy takes advantage of the broken and shattered lives of women with no place to go. His two daughters are caught in the middle with no understanding of what life outside the community is like.

There is a touch of mysticism, harsh lessons in how religion can corrupt and be corrupted, and a wrenching coming-of-age story.

The strict and structured world as Amity and Sorrow knew it is nothing like the farm where their mother insists they take refuge. There is more at work in the lives of these girls than their mother knows. Her only hope of saving them is to keep them away from the man who is their father. Their multiple layers of conservative clothing, prim aprons and cap-covered hair cannot protect them from what lies ahead.

This is a fascinating tale of a mother’s love, renewal, and the power of the mind to create what it will. Amity and Sorrow are at the mercy of a dangerous past they can relate to and a future they fear.

Riley’s scenes are gripping and visual, and her character development is powerful.

Author Peggy Riley is a writer and playwright who lives on the North Kent Coast. “Amity and Sorrow” is her first novel.


This review appears in Happenstance Literary, a digital magazine available by subscription. For details go to

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