Author: Rivers Solomon
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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I was first introduced to Rivers Solomon when I completed The Deep, so I was curious to begin Sorrowland. This is not my usual genre/type of read, so I knew it would take me a minute to adjust, however, this novel was a lot more than I expected. The story follows 15-year-old Vern, a pregnant albino black girl who lives in Cainland. She is married to the cult leader, Reverend Sherman, and desperate to escape. She eventually gives birth to twins, Feral and Howling, who she attempts to raise in the forest, however, when strange occurrences, including hauntings, begin happening, Vern must leave the woods to seek help.
This novel is very atmospheric and mysterious where it would be difficult to fully classify its genre. The writing blatantly integrates real-world issues from history and present day on the page, including racism, identity, sexuality, misogyny, motherhood, mental health, and mental health, to name a few. There are moments where the comparisons to reality are obvious and others where it relied more on symbolism. The enjoyment of this novel will therefore rely on the investment of the reader as it takes more thinking and involvement compared to some others out there, even those with heavier subjects.
The writing itself is very involved and complex, which I enjoyed as there is a lot said in few words. Based on the amount of content, I was surprised that this novel was below 400 pages as there seemed to be enough to expand the writing. While I do not mind being more involved in my reading, there were moments where the reader becomes too bogged down with the amount coming at them at one time. I am not sure if it was the content itself or the fact there were some moments of telling rather than showing, but it did come across as too much. It was not through the whole novel, but it does take away from my enjoyment. Overall, this was not my usual type of story, nor did I enjoy it as much as The Deep, but it was worth the read.