Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

When fire destroys the compound of the polygamous community she belongs to, Amaranth, the first of fifty wives, puts her two daughters, Sorrow and Amity, into a car and drives as long and far as she can. After three days, she falls asleep at the wheel, runs off the road and crashes in front of an Oklahoma farm. The farmer, Bradley, a man with his own problems, is at first unwelcoming. But the women are unable to move on, so eventually his decency compels him to help. He allows them first in the yard, then on the porch, and finally in the kitchen. Amaranth and her teen-age daughters find it difficult to discard the beliefs and rules of their religion, particularly Sorrow, who had an unnaturally close relationship with the Patriarch, her father. Flashbacks reveal what brought Amaranth and many of the other wives to such an unusual way of life, mainly loneliness and uncertainty.  But leaving the cult brings even greater loneliness and uncertainty, particularly for the children who never knew another life. Amity and Sorrow cannot read and write. They have never seen a television or eaten food they have not helped to grow and prepare. They cling to the odd religious garments they have worn all their lives. They yearn for the community of women that raised them. They are afraid to walk in a field or look at a man. Amity, the younger girl, is curious about the new world she finds herself in and more adaptable, but Sorrow, beloved of her father and the Oracle of his community, plots, against her mother’s wishes, to return.  When they fled the community, Amaranth physically tied her daughters together to keep Sorrow from running away. But physical ties are not as strong as emotions and the family is irreparably torn.