Sorrowland - Rivers Solomon

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.

But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.

To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.

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My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and MCD for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

absolute favourite:
5/5

Vern didn't know what she wanted. She was a girl made of aches and she flung her body at the world in the hopes that something, anything, might soothe the tendernesses.

I fell hopelessly in love with this book. The evocative imagery and palpable emotions were captivating from the first page. Half of the time I had no idea what I was reading, I just knew I wanted more.

Vern gives birth to twins alone in the woods after fleeing her abusive husband who is the leader of a Black religious cult. That right there is enough to base a pretty great story on. What evolves here instead is a horror/gothic/sci-fi beautiful nightmare. Tackling everything from race to government corruption to experimentation on humans to gender norms, this is an ambitious narrative that just works. The political commentary doesn’t detract from a haunting and somehow romantic story, instead, it adds to the depth of the emotions felt by the characters.

There are very graphic scenes, both violent and sexual, but they feel important to the story, not extraneous. Gory and terrifying, yet beautiful, I know this story will stick with me for a long time – and not just because Vern’s hauntings are sure to give me nightmares for weeks; they are the absolute worst thing I could ever imagine having to deal with.

The narrative feels fluid, usually from Vern’s POV but easily moving to other perspectives as needed. The characters are incredibly realistic despite the sci-fi twist. It seems totally plausible that this could happen and this is exactly how these characters would react, which has to be attributed to Rivers Solomon’s skill. They planted a grain of truth inside an insane plot and made it seem possible.

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