Amity and Sorrow tells the story of a family growing up in a cult in Utah. There is just one man, Zachariah, the fifty women he takes as wives and the more than twenty children he fathers. Zachariah goes out in search of lost women, promising them a safe haven. They live off the grid so now one really knows what's going on out there.
The story is told from the perspective of Amaranth. She was his first wife, saved by Zachariah when she was just eighteen and already struggling to survive. When Zachariah starts accumulating wives, she is too afraid of the real world to challenge him. Time passes. Zachariah's god-complex blooms. The ideal world Amaranth had escaped to has morphed into a warped world with overly strict rules for the women, but none for Zachariah.
Amaranth does escape with her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow. Amity is 12. I'm not sure about Sorrow's age. She's older than Amity, but I'm not sure by how much. The story follows their attempt to function out in the world. This is hard for Amaranth, but more so for the girls who have been brainwashed to believe Zachariah's way is the only way. How they adjust is both fascinating and heart breaking.
The characters were well-written. I really cared not only about Amaranth and her daughters, but also about many of the others, who are fully realized even as minor characters. You'll be left thinking about their stories as well. I loved the old man, Dust, and Hope. A moving, thought-provoking story. I wish I were in a book club to really talk this one out.
(In choosing what shelves to put this on, I struggled with "worst mother ever" but ultimately decided that Amaranth was a victim along with her daughters and I just couldn't judge her too harshly.)