Dystopian stories about women are all the rageÂ right now, thanks to Hulu.
While Gather the Daughters (Little, Brown, 352Â pp., ** out of four stars) clearly was in the works long before theÂ series based on Canadian author Margaret Atwoodâs classic novel The Handmaidâs Tale made the country gaga over Gilead, itâs riding the wave of the showâs popularity.
But it wipes out.Â Daughters is derivative at best and a faded photocopy at worst.
Jennie Melamedâs debut novel is aboutÂ a religious commune cloistered on an island that was settled generations earlier by 10Â male founders who escapedÂ what the commune calls “the wastelands.”Â
The communeÂ eschews modern technology and conveniences, though the wanderers, a handful of men who travel by ferry back to the larger world, occasionally return withÂ mementos,Â such as a book called Cubist Picasso, and medicine.
For the island dwellers, life isÂ a biblical horror show set amidÂ a violent patriarchal society that usesÂ a calendar tiedÂ to agriculturalÂ rites for obscure reasonsÂ and enforces super-strict sex rules.
The boudoir mores areÂ hardly by the book âÂ the Good one or otherwise. TheyÂ includeÂ incest, orgies, what amounts to forced marriages and treating women as baby-making machines.
The island’s children get aÂ reprieve every summer, when they run wild outdoors 24/7. For the young girls who lend their rotating points of views to each chapter, the warm weather becomes bittersweet as they get closer to adolescence, the time when they must find husbands. Those that get too uppity face harsh punishments.
Occasionally, converts move to the island âÂ an effort to refresh the gene pool, because of all the inbreeding. The newcomers have strict instructions not to discuss their old lives in the wastelands, but sometimes,…