Hello Humans and Happy Book Reviewing Day! (this may be an actual day I have no idea suffice to say this is just a day when I am putting out a book review, any day could in theory be Book Reviewing Day).
I’m here to review Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland which was a 2021 release I was determined to read. I’d recently read faer novella The Deep and I know of An Unkindness of Ghosts so I had a pretty good idea of the kind of book I would be reading and I was really interested to find out what would happen since the synopsis seemed so intriguing…
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.
I tried to think about what it would be like coming into this book with no knowledge of this author’s other works and I think the thing I would say before you read this is that this is not a happy story – that’s something you do expect if you’ve read other books by Rivers Solomon but if this is your first then I would recommend pacing yourself and bracing yourself. I personally like to know the tone of a book going in and so that is my two cents if you are planning on reading this.
Because I do think this book is well worth picking up. I was astounded by how much I was sucked into this story. It’s one of those books that combines the incredibly real with the incredibly surreal and somehow (or rather, through the virtue of the writing) it all comes together into something that feels simultaneously well-grounded and utterly free. This book doesn’t fit the box of any story I’ve read before and I love that, and yet there are familiar echoes.
I thought the writing, in particular the voice of the book, really shone for me. I felt very much like I got into the head of this character and that I very much understood Vern’s background and her motivations. I wasn’t expecting to be so taken in by her character but I absolutely adored her. I thought that her identity as a parent was explored in a very interesting way and in a very nuanced way, it didn’t feel like other parental narratives I have read. Did loving Vern make the story ten times harder because of everything she goes through? Why yes it did.
This story did not go in the directions I was expecting it to go – not by any means – and I truly say that as the highest compliment. I thought that the way that events played out was fantastic, it managed to take me by surprise while at the same time never feeling like the rug was pulled out from under me. There are some books where it can feel like you’re seeing behind the curtain, where you really feel the author telling you how to feel about something, this book does not have that problem, you’re swept away in a story and it’s only in coming out the other side that you really stop to say ‘wow’.
I do not think this is a book for everyone, I think it is a book that a lot of people should read but getting the timing right will be important. What this book has solidified for me is that I need to add Rivers Solomon to my auto-buy authors list because if fae keep producing content like this I know I have some all-time favourites in the future.
My rating: 5/5 stars
I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Sorrowland is out May 6th