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Sorrowland

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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 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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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 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.

30 review for Sorrowland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    Sorrowland, from Rivers Solomon, is a fantastical, fierce reckoning. It is the story of Vern, a young girl fleeing the only life she has ever known, her abusive husband, the cult he leads, to create a life for herself and her babies. But the tentacles of Cainland, the home she left, are always following her as she grows into a young woman and something more, something terrifying and powerful that just might allow her to break free from all that haunts her. Sorrowland is gorgeous and the writing, Sorrowland, from Rivers Solomon, is a fantastical, fierce reckoning. It is the story of Vern, a young girl fleeing the only life she has ever known, her abusive husband, the cult he leads, to create a life for herself and her babies. But the tentacles of Cainland, the home she left, are always following her as she grows into a young woman and something more, something terrifying and powerful that just might allow her to break free from all that haunts her. Sorrowland is gorgeous and the writing, the storytelling, they are magnificent. This country has a dark history of what it’s willing to do to black bodies and Rivers Solomon lays that truth bare in a most unexpected, absolutely brilliant way.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This is an astoundingly ambitious and harrowing novel from Rivers Solomon, destined to be one of 2021 must reads, a stellar sci-fi fantasy Gothic Horror, although it has to be said in many ways it defies easy categorisation. An alternative world that touches on numerous critical contemporary issues, and the hate, brutality, violence, sorrow and tragedies of American history. Vern is a 15 year old traumatised and abused albino black girl, 7 months pregnant who flees the Cainland cult for the wood This is an astoundingly ambitious and harrowing novel from Rivers Solomon, destined to be one of 2021 must reads, a stellar sci-fi fantasy Gothic Horror, although it has to be said in many ways it defies easy categorisation. An alternative world that touches on numerous critical contemporary issues, and the hate, brutality, violence, sorrow and tragedies of American history. Vern is a 15 year old traumatised and abused albino black girl, 7 months pregnant who flees the Cainland cult for the woods, however, the community have no intention of letting her go. Hunted, the haunted Vern gives birth to twins, Feral and Howling, raised with curiosity at the heart of their unstructured lives. With vitality and rage, this unapologetic, atmospheric, imaginative and lyrical storytelling takes in race, identity, gender, sexuality, misogyny, religion, motherhood, mental health issues, conspiracy theories, the damning state experimentations undertaken on black bodies. Intent on surviving the challenging environment of the wild woods, but burdened by her past and distrust of others, Vern slowly begins to forge connections with others, a highlight of which is her relationship with Native American Gogo and Bridget. There are twists and turns aplenty, there are revelations, the suffering endured, and the surprisingly powerful and transformative changes that start to take place in Vern as she begins to see, fight and take on the cruelty and horrors. This is, without doubt, a disturbing and distressing read, but so ferocious, profound, poignant and moving, providing a pertinent social and political commentary, it feels like a beautifully written book I will never forget and I can see it occupying my thoughts for quite some time to come. I can see it having the same impact on other readers and it deserves to do incredibly well on publication. Hugely recommended. Many thanks to Random House Cornerstone for an ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Crossbreed Rivers Solomon is an author who crafts stories about those marginalised, those seeking a voice, and those who experience inequality and intolerance. The writing is poetic and edgy, as Rivers uses a style to add another dimension to a very unique story. I was really enthused from the outset of Sorrowland to embark on a journey into a challenging plot and a unique set of characters. Rivers takes the opportunity to layer the novel with several contemporary messages on black slavery, anti- Crossbreed Rivers Solomon is an author who crafts stories about those marginalised, those seeking a voice, and those who experience inequality and intolerance. The writing is poetic and edgy, as Rivers uses a style to add another dimension to a very unique story. I was really enthused from the outset of Sorrowland to embark on a journey into a challenging plot and a unique set of characters. Rivers takes the opportunity to layer the novel with several contemporary messages on black slavery, anti-US establishment and how powerful people can evade repercussion for criminal and unethical acts. These themes overlay a central plot where a young girl Vern escapes a cult to gain freedom and seek answers. “Sherman preached that Cainland’s untouchability by the law was because of the God of Cain, but Vern was old enough now to know there was no God of Cain. Something else safeguarded the compound. Or someone else.” Vern is fifteen years old living in, Cainland, where she is pregnant and married to the cult leader Reverend Sherman. Her nights are horrifying as she is strapped into bed and fed a concoction of drugs. Vern, however, manages to escape into the woods and ekes out an existence for four years trying to evade any search efforts to find her. The Fiend hunts her and torments her, letting her know she is being watched and hunted. She hears the wolves at night as they flush out the runaways. Vern delivers twins, two boys she names Howling and Feral, and she teaches them about the woods with their exuberant thirst for knowledge. There is endearing respect the boys have for nature and all living things, even if it is to be food. Gradually Vern experiences physical change and we wonder if these are a reaction to the drugs (or now lack of), maybe cancer taking root and spreading, a viral infection, or a metaphysical change. In addition, Vern experiences nightmares and hallucinations she calls ‘Hauntings’. The hauntings feel very real and she struggles to recognise reality from the otherworldly visions and feels these are messages or cries for help. Realising she can’t live like this forever, Vern takes the massive step of leaving the woods and tracking down her best friend Lucy, who left the compound many years before. On Vern’s travels, we discover she is an unlikeable person, brash, selfish, thankless, while also fascinating and resourceful. When she finds Lucy’s home, she discovers Lucy is presumed dead but forms a close relationship with Gogo, a Native American, and Bridget who take her and her children in. As expected, she is eventually hunted down and the scope of the conspiracy starts to unfold. At this point, I’m thinking – take it home Rivers. You’re onto a winner. Unfortunately for me, the wheels came off, and it became confusing, bizarre, convenient in the plotting, irrelevant holes the story jumped into to somehow illustrate some of the issues the author is passionate about and delivered plot lines that seemed impractical and unrealistic. Major WTF moments ruined a beautiful thing. In the first 60 % of the book, I was enthralled with an unparalleled storyline and underlying mystery. The last 40 % totally turned my opinion 180 degrees on what had been a very impressive novel. This was a Buddy read with my Buddy, Ceecee, and after being excited for the first half of the book and excited about our discussions, we both reached a realisation that a major shift had occurred, and the scenes were difficult to enjoy or understand. Please read Ceecee’s review, for her thoughts. Ceecee and I seem to be outliers with this one. I would like to thank Random House, Merky Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in return for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Farrah (on a short hiatus!)

    ⭐ 4 these Rivers run deep Stars ⭐ Sorrowland tells the story of Vern, a pregnant teenager who escapes the cult Cainland. Rather than re-enter society she births and raises her babies in the woods. However Vern soon learns that Cainland's powers are far-reaching and more life altering than she could have imagined. So that's what the book is about in the literal sense. But everything it's saying is in the subtext. And it has a lot to say about a vast number of topics, including race, religion, sexu ⭐ 4 these Rivers run deep Stars ⭐ Sorrowland tells the story of Vern, a pregnant teenager who escapes the cult Cainland. Rather than re-enter society she births and raises her babies in the woods. However Vern soon learns that Cainland's powers are far-reaching and more life altering than she could have imagined. So that's what the book is about in the literal sense. But everything it's saying is in the subtext. And it has a lot to say about a vast number of topics, including race, religion, sexuality, community, growth, love, hate, control..... I struggled in the beginning to find my footing in this strange new world but ended up enjoying the stunning imagery and symbolism. I think it's very difficult to categorize it into one genre as it has elements of so many. One page could be horror but the next could be sci-fi. I guess, like Vern, this book is fierce, unforgiving and does what it wants on its own terms. Amazing cover art designed by Abby Kagan! 𝘈 𝘩𝘶𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘕𝘦𝘵𝘎𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘺. 𝘋𝘶𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘔𝘢𝘺 4𝘵𝘩.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    This is the story of Vern, a fifteen year old albino black woman who flees the ‘Cainland’ compound where she has grown up. She goes into the woods where she gives birth to twins who she names Howling and Feral. Vern experiences ‘hauntings’ which seem like hallucinations but also feel real. After several years surviving deep in the woods, Vern ventures out ......What follows is impossible to categorise, it’s part horror, part magical fantasy, there are elements of science fiction, it’s part polit This is the story of Vern, a fifteen year old albino black woman who flees the ‘Cainland’ compound where she has grown up. She goes into the woods where she gives birth to twins who she names Howling and Feral. Vern experiences ‘hauntings’ which seem like hallucinations but also feel real. After several years surviving deep in the woods, Vern ventures out ......What follows is impossible to categorise, it’s part horror, part magical fantasy, there are elements of science fiction, it’s part political and historical. It has a multitude of themes including motherhood, race, identity and gender, survivalism and living wild and transformation. It includes characters that are on the fringes of society obviously which includes Vern but also Gogo who helps her, who is Native American. Vern is not a character who is easy to like, she’s in rebellion, lacks trust, is swift to anger and so can be aggressive and harsh. However, she does her best to protect her boys and I love the direct way she explains things to them. Much of this is attributable to her upbringing in Cainland which has its origins in black nationalist movements of the 1960’s and ‘70’s but which also becomes a religious movement. Much of the book is fierce, very unsettling, extremely hard to read in places because some events are dark, harrowing and very brutal, both before and after Cainland. Gogo is a fantastic character as are Howling and Feral who without restraints of being raised among families and peers are precocious beyond their years, very capable, brave and tough. Some of the imagery is very powerful and supernatural, very original and almost like a nightmarish unsanitised fairytale which at times is unnerving. For the first two thirds of the book I’m all in, I find some of it weird and I can’t say that I understand everything but the power of the writing enthrals and the originality of the writing wins the day, we’re on track for a four or five star rating even though at times i feel I’m on some kind of weird LSD trip, without the drugs obviously! However from that point on the storytelling seems to change and I don’t like the direction it takes. The pace slumps, the messages become unclear and messy, the storytelling is overblown, in places it’s horrific and as we reach the climax the author chooses to give us some background to characters in Cainland which halts the flow. Why???? There is no doubt this is a hugely ambitious book, it’s clever and a lot of it is a very different literary experience. It’s challenging in a myriad of ways, at times a commentary on US society, on dubious government decisions, actions and race relations and at others it’s about gender. On occasions it’s mind bending and surreal with some of the imagery being so creative that it’s wise to suspend disbelief. Despite my reservations about the book, one thing is for absolute sure - it’s completely unforgettable. With thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone, Merky Books for the arc in return for an honest review. This was a great read with Peter and as ever we had lively discussions. Thanks buddy. We do seem to be the outliers on this one and so it’s worthwhile to read other reviews such as Paromjit ‘s.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Books are one of life's greatest treasures. Some of you know I've been unwell the last couple months. One of the worst parts of this ordeal is that, for a long time, I was unable to read. If you are reading this review, you are probably a book lover and can imagine how terrible it is to be unable to read.  Words didn't make sense. Opening a book was like peering into an abyss. A wave of heat and confusion would wash through my brain. The words looked like strange markings, symbols used by some anci Books are one of life's greatest treasures. Some of you know I've been unwell the last couple months. One of the worst parts of this ordeal is that, for a long time, I was unable to read. If you are reading this review, you are probably a book lover and can imagine how terrible it is to be unable to read.  Words didn't make sense. Opening a book was like peering into an abyss. A wave of heat and confusion would wash through my brain. The words looked like strange markings, symbols used by some ancient people and then forgotten.  At some point during the last couple months, when I turned on the Kindle, I was able to recognise a couple words before the confusion took hold. Not an entire sentence, but my brain was able to decipher a few precious words.  I cannot tell you how grateful I was, for those brief seconds, drinking in those words and knowing their meaning, before the darkness consumed me again.  Gradually I was able to read an entire sentence, and then a paragraph, then two. I downloaded Sorrowland and it will forever be one of the most special books for me. It took me a few weeks (those who know me know that usually I read a book in a couple days) and I forgot most of what I read, but that does not matter. I was able to read it!  When you think you might have forever lost the ability to read, there is little that means so much as regaining it.  I wish I could say more about the book itself because I loved it so much and Rivers Solomon is an incredible writer. Unfortunately, I forget most of the details, though that is in no way the fault of the book or the author. I remember little of this period. It says a lot that I recall how much I enjoyed the story and how much I adored Vern, the protagonist. I borrowed her incredible strength for myself. I will re-read it sometime when I can enjoy it fully and with all of my brain working normally. And then I will tell you precisely what worked so well in this beautiful and dynamic book. 

  7. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Anders

    Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon contains so much wisdom and insight, wrapped in an abundance of passion and fury and tenderness. This is the first book I've read in ages that I'm certain I will come back to again and again, because there are rich gorgeous passages that I already know will mean more to me on subsequent readings. There is so much going on in this book, too: the spectre of what happens when rebellion is co-opted, our longstanding practice of using Black bodies for cruel and unethical Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon contains so much wisdom and insight, wrapped in an abundance of passion and fury and tenderness. This is the first book I've read in ages that I'm certain I will come back to again and again, because there are rich gorgeous passages that I already know will mean more to me on subsequent readings. There is so much going on in this book, too: the spectre of what happens when rebellion is co-opted, our longstanding practice of using Black bodies for cruel and unethical experiments, the audacity of queer love. The arc of this book takes Vern and her babies away from civilization and then back to it — but they return changed, and they change everyone else, and this book restored my faith in our potential to transform just when I needed it most. Sorrowland is an essential read that I expect to see everyone buzzing about this spring/summer, and I'm so grateful I got to read it early.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Books with Brittany

    Wow. Actually stunned with how good this was. Damn

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hsinju

    Content warnings: animal killings, self harm, childbirth, alcohol abuse, cult, gaslight, pedophilia, blood, death, drowning, rape, attempted forcing of medication, torture, hallucination, brainwash, non-consensual medical experiment, reclaimed d slur, suicide, cannibalism?, voyeurism?, drug abuse, child abuse The craft of fiction at its finest. Sorrowland opens in the woods with the fifteen-year-old Vern—who is Black, albino (the term is used in text), and intersex—giving birth to twins Howling an Content warnings: animal killings, self harm, childbirth, alcohol abuse, cult, gaslight, pedophilia, blood, death, drowning, rape, attempted forcing of medication, torture, hallucination, brainwash, non-consensual medical experiment, reclaimed d slur, suicide, cannibalism?, voyeurism?, drug abuse, child abuse The craft of fiction at its finest. Sorrowland opens in the woods with the fifteen-year-old Vern—who is Black, albino (the term is used in text), and intersex—giving birth to twins Howling and Feral, the latter also has albinism. Vern grew up in the Blessed Acres of Cain, a religious compound that was supposed to be a Black utopia, but she had to escape because everything there seems to be a lie. Over the next several months and years, Vern’s body begins to change. She is both stronger and more vulnerable, and she starts to understand that the power of the past while struggling to raise the twins with the freedom she never had. I used to wish for a book in contemporary settings that references history and beliefs while telling a brand new story deeply influenced by the past. And now I have found it in Sorrowland. The main concept is the cycle of history, with great emphasis on the violence against Black and Indigenous peoples in America. It is disturbing, both in raw descriptions and the recurring horrors of history. Throughout the story, there are countless Biblical references as well as mentions of historical and modern events that pertains to racism. Despite the pain and lingering memories from the past, the theme of rebirth—which the book opens with—creates a hopeful tone. Vern is hungry to live and to be free, like her endless hunger for food. She would do anything to keep her children safe and as innocent as possible. When she meets Bridget and Gogo (Lakota, winkte), they become her found family. All of these characters are beautiful and real and passionate, their drives raw and primal. There were so many visceral sentences that were punches in the gut, thoughts so accurate and candid no one else dared think. A lot of the scenes were allusions to being intersex and/or trans, especially since the intersection of identities being an underlying theme of Sorrowland. We have an intersex lead, an Indigenous transwoman, he/him twins who are really genderless. Through memories from shared history and trauma as well as the hauntings, we also get snippets of stories from other unrelated yet interconnected people from the past. While I did have minor issues with some parts that might be ARC issues (time inconsistency and wording), the overall story is too rich to not love. I definitely need to read a finished copy. Sorrowland is a condensation of history told through weaving fantastical elements. At first, I didn’t understand the ending, thinking it was sudden and didn’t fit the tone. But after thinking through the message of the story and the opening scenes, the ending, for me, made Vern’s and her loved ones’ lives come full circle. The final scene ended exactly where it should, still a reference to the Bible, still a reference to history. It transcends genres and is a mix of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, romance (sapphic), and literary fiction. The dedication line, “To everyone I will ever be, and ever was,” might not make much sense at first glance, actually fits the central plot perfectly. This work of fiction is a must-read, beautiful and haunting. I received a digital review copy from MCD via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Buddy read with E.! Check out her review here!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Well, that was an intense and meaty read. Whew! This book took me quite some time to get through, I would read some and put this book down and turn to other books. There is a lot going on in this book. A lot of food for thought. A lot of issues being addressed. Plus, it was bizarre at times and there were instances where I just was not sure what I just read and had to go back and re-read some sections. The book begins as a 7-month pregnant, Vern, flees Cainland, the religious compound where she Well, that was an intense and meaty read. Whew! This book took me quite some time to get through, I would read some and put this book down and turn to other books. There is a lot going on in this book. A lot of food for thought. A lot of issues being addressed. Plus, it was bizarre at times and there were instances where I just was not sure what I just read and had to go back and re-read some sections. The book begins as a 7-month pregnant, Vern, flees Cainland, the religious compound where she was raised. She goes into the woods and gives birth to her twin sons, Howling and Feral. Hunted by the Fiend, she must survive and do the best she can to raise her sons. While in the woods, Vern begins to change. Her sons notice it. There is something going on with her back. But what? Was she poisoned? Was it the drugs she was given at night in Cainland? Plus, are the "hauntings" she experiences hallucinations? Is this the result of the drugs she was given? Are the "Hauntings" telling her something? Are they even real? Vern eventually leaves the woods and meets a woman named Gonzo who with a woman named Bridget, help Vern, and take care of her children. There is a lot more there, but I will leave it at that. So, the plot seems straightforward, right? Wrong! At least it was not for me. This book is a mixture of several genres and as I mentioned before parts were bizarre to me. There are a lot of issues being addressed in this book - survival, motherhood, abuse, violence, history, sexuality, friendship, race, identity, cults, religion, etc. For me, all the issues in addition to the numerous genres became overwhelming and bogged down the book a little for me. This was an extremely ambitious novel. Many are enjoying this more than I did. I struggled in the beginning and I struggled at the end. The only part, I didn't struggle was in middle. Beautifully written, Ambitious, genre bending, haunting and bizarre. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own. Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shivvani Rao (Carrot)

    1.5 stars. This book was very hard for me to finish. I almost DNF-ed this. Almost. It started out okay and I was kinda interested to find out about all the hauntings, Cainland etc., but the plot was dragged so much that it was so boring to read. I kind of liked Vern’s time in the forest but all the answers for Vern’s condition were given so late into the plot that I wasn’t even thrilled. There was so much filler between the important plot points. I liked the LGBT+ representation and Vern’s view on 1.5 stars. This book was very hard for me to finish. I almost DNF-ed this. Almost. It started out okay and I was kinda interested to find out about all the hauntings, Cainland etc., but the plot was dragged so much that it was so boring to read. I kind of liked Vern’s time in the forest but all the answers for Vern’s condition were given so late into the plot that I wasn’t even thrilled. There was so much filler between the important plot points. I liked the LGBT+ representation and Vern’s view on labels. I hoped for some good fantasy/sci-fi elements but that was not the author’s focus. It was more about Vern’s journey to self-acceptance. The part I loved the most in the book was Ruthanne’s story. I was bored to tears and her story piqued my interest. When the story picked up at the end, I wasn’t even excited- I was just hasty to finish it. And the end? So the government leaves Vern alone- even after the extent of her power? Total time spent: 9 freaking hours. ~ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Boston

    I want to start this review by saying that there are themes and trauma brought up in this book that I will never be able to understand. That being said, I think this was an absolutely incredible story following one of the best protagonists I’ve ever read about. Vern’s upbringing and subsequent escape was so enthralling to me, I found myself drinking up chapters like water at 3am. It was such a powerful yet heartbreaking story and I can only imagine how much more impactful it will be for Black re I want to start this review by saying that there are themes and trauma brought up in this book that I will never be able to understand. That being said, I think this was an absolutely incredible story following one of the best protagonists I’ve ever read about. Vern’s upbringing and subsequent escape was so enthralling to me, I found myself drinking up chapters like water at 3am. It was such a powerful yet heartbreaking story and I can only imagine how much more impactful it will be for Black readers and I hope the people who need this story the most will be able to read it. *thank you to the publisher for sending me an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Colson

    Reading Vlog/Review: https://youtu.be/gmICC9mZPpI Wow. I had no idea what this was about going in and it blew me away. I loved it. So so so weird. But also sapphic and raw and deep and strangely magical. Also a cult? Love it. Reading Vlog/Review: https://youtu.be/gmICC9mZPpI Wow. I had no idea what this was about going in and it blew me away. I loved it. So so so weird. But also sapphic and raw and deep and strangely magical. Also a cult? Love it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    Just got approved for this one woooooo!! Loved The Deep and can’t wait to read this!!!!! *Thanks to Farrar, Straus an Giroux & Netgalley for an advance copy! Just got approved for this one woooooo!! Loved The Deep and can’t wait to read this!!!!! *Thanks to Farrar, Straus an Giroux & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dawn C

    This is the third Rivers Solomon work I read and they continue to impress. Their style is recognizable and unique, blending brutal, historical reality with poetic, fantastical prose seamlessly. This is a dark, yet oddly gentle, sensitive story of a woman's struggle to escape the clutches of Cainland, a seemingly supportive, religious community of black people which is not what it seems. Vern's story is a metamorphosis, quite literally, and completely fascinating from page one. I couldn't put it This is the third Rivers Solomon work I read and they continue to impress. Their style is recognizable and unique, blending brutal, historical reality with poetic, fantastical prose seamlessly. This is a dark, yet oddly gentle, sensitive story of a woman's struggle to escape the clutches of Cainland, a seemingly supportive, religious community of black people which is not what it seems. Vern's story is a metamorphosis, quite literally, and completely fascinating from page one. I couldn't put it down. All the stars in the world for this raw and honest novel.

  16. 4 out of 5

    MZ

    4.5 stars. This book did not let me go, it’s original, dark and emotional and it has some suspense elements. It’s going to be tricky to write a review without spoilers, but here we go. The title is well chosen, since there is so much sorrow and despair. While this is fiction, it still gives some painful insights in how messed up our society can be. Generally, I do not like it when a book is very depressing, but there was also enough light in this book to make this an enjoyable read for me. The s 4.5 stars. This book did not let me go, it’s original, dark and emotional and it has some suspense elements. It’s going to be tricky to write a review without spoilers, but here we go. The title is well chosen, since there is so much sorrow and despair. While this is fiction, it still gives some painful insights in how messed up our society can be. Generally, I do not like it when a book is very depressing, but there was also enough light in this book to make this an enjoyable read for me. The start of the book could be considered realism, but after a while it shifts out of realism. If I have to compare it with something, I would compare it to the feel of a dystopian novel where you know certain things are not realistic, but at the same time parts of it do not feel entirely unrealistic. The main of the book is Vern and she recently ran away from a religious cult. At 15 years old she’s still a girl, but at the time of her escape she’s 7 months pregnant. This already gives enough insight in the cult she was living in. In an effort to remain hidden from the cult, she decides to try to survive in the forest with her twins. However, after a while, strange things are happening to her body and she is forced to leave the forest with her two children that are not adapted to civilized life, or other people for that matter. Vern is a complex character. She’s not the most likeable person, being shaped by her life experiences, but I admired her and cared for her all the same. She’s smart, stubborn, and brave. Especially the part where she lives in the woods illustrates her strength, she has an impaired eye sight, is still very young and has two young children care for, but she does not give up. I loved her two children, they play an important role in the book, you watch them grow and become their own person. It’s not always easy to give kids personality in books, but Solomon did an excellent job. The book has a specific prose that is tailored to Vern and I found that I enjoyed it. The pace is rather slow, especially during the first half of the book, but despite the slow pace the story kept me intrigued the entire time. It is written in 3rd person almost entirely from the POV of Vern (I think about 98%). I believe there were two small instances where the POV changed (if I didn’t miss one). The only comments I have are about the last 20% of the book (which led to a decrease in rating from 5 to 4 stars) and I have to mention that they largely come down to my personal preferences. The ending felt abrupt and several things are left open. This was clearly a deliberate choice of the author, but I would have liked more closure and preferably a small peek into the future. There was also a change in POV very near the end. While this actually gave quite an interesting story on its own, it pulled me out of the main story, which was right in the middle of the final conflict, so I wish it were left out. I’m really bad at giving trigger warnings, so I’m not even going to try for this book, but there is quite a long list, so you may want to check some other reviews for a comprehensive list. This book is not for everybody, but it really got to me and is one that I will not forget. If you’re looking for something dark and moody, just outside the realm of realism, with excellent character building, then I easily recommend this book! I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. Vern is a Black woman with albinism, an escapee from a religious compound, and a single mother to two little ones who do not realise that their upbringing in the wild edges of the world is not the usual one. The prejudices that come with each of these are the least of her worries when her body first starts to itch and then begins to transform. And with these alterations comes abilities no human should ever have access to. But then Vern's entire existence has been one no Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. Vern is a Black woman with albinism, an escapee from a religious compound, and a single mother to two little ones who do not realise that their upbringing in the wild edges of the world is not the usual one. The prejudices that come with each of these are the least of her worries when her body first starts to itch and then begins to transform. And with these alterations comes abilities no human should ever have access to. But then Vern's entire existence has been one no-one should have to experience. This was a tragic, unsettling, and entirely compelling read. Vern's story was a hard one to digest but her perseverance and her ability to keep striving forward, when hope was in continuously short supply, made her an immediately likable protagonist. She was never one I ever felt close to, as all she had suffered through made her wary and untrusting of strangers, but she was one I saw much goodness and strength in. The reader became increasingly exposed to more fantastical elements as Vern's story progressed. They were blended so seamlessly into the rest of her story that it became entirely believable and just another facet of her existence. At its heart, this is, or at least it felt for me, a story about suffering. And yet it was not an entirely bleak or hopeless one, no matter what Vern thought at different junctures of her journey. There was much light to be found in these pages but they were interspersed around horrific crimes and dark deeds, inflicted against Vern and those around her. Many parallels can be drawn between this fictional story and real-world America, where many Verns reside. They might not have manifested abilities but the prejudice and suffering they experience is very much the same. As is the fight and the power that resides inside of them. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Rivers Solomon, and the publisher, Merky Books, for this opportunity.

  18. 4 out of 5

    sarah

    “Going against tended to end more rightly, more justly, than going with. People were wrong. Rules, most of the time, favored not what was right, but what was convenient or preferable to those in charge.” Sorrowland tells the story of Vern as she flees from a cult and its leader to create a new life with her children. But Cainland doesn't let her go easily. She is hunted and haunted by the cult, so eventually decides to leave the woods and go to civilisation to find her friend, Lucy. “How come wh “Going against tended to end more rightly, more justly, than going with. People were wrong. Rules, most of the time, favored not what was right, but what was convenient or preferable to those in charge.” Sorrowland tells the story of Vern as she flees from a cult and its leader to create a new life with her children. But Cainland doesn't let her go easily. She is hunted and haunted by the cult, so eventually decides to leave the woods and go to civilisation to find her friend, Lucy. “How come white folks were always telling Black people to get over slavery because it was 150 or so years ago but they couldn’t get over their Christ who died 1,830 years before that?” Sorrowland is a deeply ambitious and complex story of misogyny, racism, sexuality and power. While I loved it conceptually, I found the execution to not be quite what I was looking for. This included some sci-fi elements that I wasn't expecting, and the overall tone was just a little off. I found myself bogged down by all the imagery and symbolism, but couldn't bring myself to try and sort through all of it because I wasn't invested enough. “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.” If you are a fan of weird, experimental and lightly sci-fi books- you will probably love this! It was just a little too elusive and strange for my personal tastes. I have a feeling that this would be a really good book to buddy read or discuss with a book club. Unfortunately, I didn't have anyone to discuss it with so I don't think I had the best experience I could have. Overall, most of my critisisms were by no fault of the book itself, but me. I simply think I wasn't the target audience. But if you are, I can completely see how you would love this book. ★★☆☆☆.5 stars Thank you to Random House UK for this ARC Release Date: 6 May 2021

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rincey

    3.5 stars Explores some really interesting ideas and loved the first 2/3s a whole lot. The last bit takes a bit of a dive IMO Watch me discuss this in my June wrap up: https://youtu.be/V8XoY3vzEaw 3.5 stars Explores some really interesting ideas and loved the first 2/3s a whole lot. The last bit takes a bit of a dive IMO Watch me discuss this in my June wrap up: https://youtu.be/V8XoY3vzEaw

  20. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    3.5 stars rounded down. There's always something in the way Rivers Solomon writes their characters and creates atmospheric feelings that I really treasure. The Deep and An Unkindness of Ghosts, while I might forget the exact plot lines and whatnots, I won't forget the way the story and its characters made me feel. Sorrowland is another one that has an imprint. Yet it also suffers from the same setbacks like in the above mentioned book. I became disoriented in the middle or 2/3 part and got impat 3.5 stars rounded down. There's always something in the way Rivers Solomon writes their characters and creates atmospheric feelings that I really treasure. The Deep and An Unkindness of Ghosts, while I might forget the exact plot lines and whatnots, I won't forget the way the story and its characters made me feel. Sorrowland is another one that has an imprint. Yet it also suffers from the same setbacks like in the above mentioned book. I became disoriented in the middle or 2/3 part and got impatient towards the ending until I feel like wanting it to be over asap and reached a conclusion and have revelations and all, which might or might not have been too satisfying. I could not really pinpoint why, but it would have something to do with the plot and the writing. Yet, I truly, really, deeply enjoyed the first half of this book. It was magnificent and emotionally aesthetic. Vern and her children are my favorite parts. And the dark, gloomy setting too. Sorry I could not be more specific so other reviews could be more useful ;p

  21. 5 out of 5

    inciminci

    Ever since I have read Solomon's "An Unkindness of Ghosts" a couple of years ago I am a sucker for everything written by them and Sorrowland was no exception to that rule. If anything, it even further reinforced my admiration, because this is an impeccably written, deep, meaningful book and may even be the author's best yet. We follow Vern who, heavily pregnant, flees the religious compound she has been living in all her life and hides in the woods, where she gives birth to twins Feral and Howlin Ever since I have read Solomon's "An Unkindness of Ghosts" a couple of years ago I am a sucker for everything written by them and Sorrowland was no exception to that rule. If anything, it even further reinforced my admiration, because this is an impeccably written, deep, meaningful book and may even be the author's best yet. We follow Vern who, heavily pregnant, flees the religious compound she has been living in all her life and hides in the woods, where she gives birth to twins Feral and Howling. After living some years in the forest without the influence of the outside world, Vern enters a kind of metamorphosis and her body starts changing in eerie (and may I say cool?) ways, which forces her to leave her quiet life and to explore the roots of her bodily changes, explore the true secrets of the compound. With every step of Vern's journey, Sorrowland gradually increases in complexity, making it more engaging with each tier of her story and leading to places truly unexpected. Every single character and their interactions were interesting and engaging to me, adding to the captivation of the grave and, yes, sorrowful metaphor this book deals with. Sorrowland is a whole different level of art, of telling, it's a masterpiece and seriously, it should be read everywhere by everyone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nina ✿ Looseleaf Reviews ✿

    *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review* This book is a hard one to review given the enormity of what it achieves. First, I want to express my surprise at the lack of male-gaze in a topic where I would expect it. The author is nonbinary and I can hear that perspective in the writing. The main character, Vern, is a teen mother who was forced into marriage at 15 by a cult her mother joined. It's so easy to fetishize this character, or to reduce her entire identity to motherh *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review* This book is a hard one to review given the enormity of what it achieves. First, I want to express my surprise at the lack of male-gaze in a topic where I would expect it. The author is nonbinary and I can hear that perspective in the writing. The main character, Vern, is a teen mother who was forced into marriage at 15 by a cult her mother joined. It's so easy to fetishize this character, or to reduce her entire identity to motherhood, but her femininity, sense of self, and sexual discovery are approached with a unique sense of empowerment and reverence. This tackles a lot of characters on the "fringe" of society. Vern is an albino woman from a black family, and an escapee from a cult that rose from a racial movement. Gogo is a Native American who was not raised in their culture, and who is two-spirit in a world that doesn't even know this identity in their language. Howling and Feral are children raised without society's conditioning, precocious in their thirst for knowledge but lacking structure from the world at large. I love that Vern's fight isn't against any single thing, but the mix of all of these. Cainland and its tenants stand for the system in any form, and Vern is a single woman visually and emotionally set apart. The sci-fi, or magical realism - what have you - is unique from anything I've read. I don't want to get too deep into this because it's a story that should be experienced first-hand! If I were to offer any criticism, it would be that this story sometimes felt burdened by what it was saying, to the point that I wasn't fully immersed in Vern's life. I'm excited to read other works by this author because I think a less ambitious story may be more immersive within their writing style.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)

    It's hard to classify Sorrowland into a genre as it has bits of everything: science fiction, thriller, and horror. It is very much grounded in our world, in spite of speculative elements. It starts as a straightforward story of a woman's escape from a cult but becomes more sinister when the truths emerge. One of the reasons why I instantly liked it is because of the queer characters. There are so many of them and they are all living their truths and it made me so very giddy. I adored the precocio It's hard to classify Sorrowland into a genre as it has bits of everything: science fiction, thriller, and horror. It is very much grounded in our world, in spite of speculative elements. It starts as a straightforward story of a woman's escape from a cult but becomes more sinister when the truths emerge. One of the reasons why I instantly liked it is because of the queer characters. There are so many of them and they are all living their truths and it made me so very giddy. I adored the precocious twins, they were so lovable. Solomon draws from history, building upon American propensity for horrors inflicted on Black and Native American people in the name of science and discovery to show us the horrifying product of cold rationality, completely devoid of emotion/humanity. There is a lot of telescoping of time, I did not find the shifts smooth. The writing is fine but, personally, nothing special. All of the big twists happen way too close to the end and I had hoped that the few fantastical elements would be more integral. For a plot-heavy book, life in Mainland was barely sketched in. The genesis and its history was bare-bones. The pacing is quite erratic, especially in the last third which is also where the political allusions get a little too on the nose, brash. I was not a fan of the end, it felt strangely anti-climactic. Still, not a bad book, even if underwhelming. (I received a physical ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    The subjugation, exploitation and brutalization of black bodies is a common theme in Rivers Solomon’s works, and here the author does this by examining the unethical experimentation on African Americans, child abuse, the use of religion to control and harm anyone not fitting the “norm”, whether that be women, queer individuals, etc., and government spying on black organizations and movements that advocated for equality and empowerment in society. Using a fictional group that lives isolated from The subjugation, exploitation and brutalization of black bodies is a common theme in Rivers Solomon’s works, and here the author does this by examining the unethical experimentation on African Americans, child abuse, the use of religion to control and harm anyone not fitting the “norm”, whether that be women, queer individuals, etc., and government spying on black organizations and movements that advocated for equality and empowerment in society. Using a fictional group that lives isolated from the rest of American society, Cainland’s mandate is to provide a haven and clean, simpler living for African Americans. At least, that’s what the perception outside the gates is. Within, life is full of physical labour and no drugs, growing their own food, and celebration of black accomplishments through history. But, there are also many strictures and punishments for everyone, though the women do seem to be living more oppressed lives than the men and anyone not heterosexual is punished. Also, people are given medications everyday, blood is drawn regularly, and everyone is restrained in their beds at night. Enter Vern, who is argumentative and doesn’t conform. She and her best friend Lucy flout the rules whenever they can, until Lucy escapes one day from Cainland. Years later, a pregnant Vern escapes and gives birth to twins in the woods. Thanks to the practical learning she’s had at Cainland, she’s able to fend for herself and her babies for years. Plagued by hauntings and pain, to the point that she thinks she’s dying, she chooses to leave the woods with her twins to search for Lucy and her family, travelling many kilometres away, and finding horrible answers to the questions that have swirled around her all her life. This isn’t the easiest book to read. The story is a work of horror, nightmare and social commentary; Rivers Solomon has written a deeply disturbing and unsettling work about the ways in which those who don’t fit the white, patriarchal narrative are controlled and hurt to suit those in control. It’s a book that affected me, upset me, and in some moments, shook me with its frightening imagery, all of which I’ve come to expect with this author’s work. Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for this ARC in exchange for a review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ReadBecca

    Sorrowland is the story of Vern, the 15 year old wife of Reverend Sherman, who has spent her whole life in the Blessed Acres of Cain (or Cainland) an isolationist black nationalist compound. Vern is albino, with vision issues that mean she has never learned to read, but she is incredibly smart, having absorbed any knowledge she could from those around her. She is pregnant and determined not to bring new life into the cult, she flees into the forest, but a fiend is in the forest with her making o Sorrowland is the story of Vern, the 15 year old wife of Reverend Sherman, who has spent her whole life in the Blessed Acres of Cain (or Cainland) an isolationist black nationalist compound. Vern is albino, with vision issues that mean she has never learned to read, but she is incredibly smart, having absorbed any knowledge she could from those around her. She is pregnant and determined not to bring new life into the cult, she flees into the forest, but a fiend is in the forest with her making ominous threats, she seems sure the fiend is real and not one of the continued Hauntings she experiences that the Reverend taught were detoxification from the outside world. Vern gives birth to twins in the forest, becoming wrapped up entirely in their care and survival. When she starts losing her own identity to the children, one day she wanders out of the forest to the road and meets a biker woman who she strikes up a relationship with. As time has gone on in the forest, the Hauntings have only worsened, Vern's body is also changing is strange ways that even the children who have never seen another person recognize is unusual. Over the course of excursions out of the forest to meet the woman, Vern begins to realize she can't stay in the forest forever and she needs to know more about the changes she's undergoing, she wants to start by finding her childhood best friend Lucy who escaped the cult. Vern slowly unravels the truth of the Hauntings, the changes in her body, and the secrets of Cainland. This starts very slow and atmospheric, being mostly about a quiet isolated survival in the woods, but completely changes in part 2 and 3, continues escalating in both pace and strangeness. It is a bit hard to accept a 15 year old being able to survive in this way, though the life at the compound meant mostly self reliance, resourcefulness and survivalism, so it comes off at least feasible. Vern does eventually leave the forest, finding her way to people who are helpers and don't care about her unusual situation, there she begins a relationship with a Lakota third gender/two-spirit (winkte) individual, who is also a medic and is able to help her with her body problem. As well, while Vern has been socialized to she/her pronouns, she is clear in the first chapter that she defies gender, interestingly with her twins likewise we have a sort of fluidity in gender. For me this is the most rich in terms of prose of Solomon's work so far, and I can really see the progression of their work here. Looking back to past work, In The Deep, the primary narrative is the collective memory of trauma, this story definitely also draws on that as an element as well. We see this from an individual and generational level, with Vern herself and her mother as the first part is split between current Vern in the forest, and her backstory at Cainland leading up her escape. As we get into parts 2 and 3 we get into the history of trauma of Cainland. As well, beyond the forest the introduction of indigenous characters into her life makes Vern re-think the fact that the ideology of Cainlaind said they were taking back the land they were entitled after slavery, but she is confronted now with whose land is it really they were taking. This is very much focused on the exploitation of black bodies particularly, but through the inclusion of the indigenous characters it extends out to broader people of colour in general beyond just the black experience. This touches around the edges on the reality for them of pipeline protests and chronic diabetes. From a content perspective, there is some severe homophobia and rejection of biracial relationships in Cainland. The book does include a fair amount of violence and gore, but for me I found it to be written in a way that is not lingered on or excessive, it is more vivid. At the beginning the fiend is leaving dead animal bodies, but it doesn't get much more graphic than I've written there, so even though that is something I am personally extremely sensitive to, so because of how it is handled it never bothered me. As her body begins to change there are some elements of self harm as well, however for me this seems more a literal means of showing an outward expression of internal damage and healing, not what you think of when talking about the topic normally regarding mental illness and self harming. It is body horror in the technical sense of actual body changing, but not as much the way it's more commonly used to impart extremely graphic mutilation I think. The only elements that didn't really work for me were an extremely graphic and bizarre sex scene, and the villain just monologuing an explanation of all the plans & unanswered questions in the end (see the trope: Evil Gloating or Evil Plan). Rivers Solomon is just a master of using a seed of real history and then twisting it, so that the real element remains the most harrowing part. Minor Spoiler: If you are wanting some more context to decide on picking this up, what is happening to Vern's Body (but not how or why) is (view spoiler)[that she slowly has what appears to be visible bone along her spine in back first, but eventually grows into a complete exoskeleton. (hide spoiler)] Major Spoiler: The how and why are (view spoiler)[the nod to real history that throughout the past black bodies have been used and abused for medical testing & discovery, numerous real world instances of this are cited through the book. Cainland started with real enough intentions, but has turned into a super secret government facility locating and recruiting/pressing those they've found to be good medical candidates for implanting a fungus to survive in their body. Vern's mother was being threatened with the likely loss of her child, when a social worker offered her the out of going to Cainland. The fungus causes rapid healing, the exoskeleton growth, but also carries a collective memory of all those the fungus previously lived in. (hide spoiler)] I requested and received this book for honest review, thanks to Netgalley, FSG, and the author.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anniek

    I'm a reader who tends to stay in my comfort zone quite a lot, but I'll be the first to admit that stepping out of it once in a while is so worthwile. Sorrowland is a combination of a lot of elements I don't typically enjoy, but it was such a valuable reading experience. I thought it might take me a while to read this, but I could absolutely not put it down. I think that's largely because I tend to expect a book of this genre to be quite heavy, and parts of it definitely were, but this also felt I'm a reader who tends to stay in my comfort zone quite a lot, but I'll be the first to admit that stepping out of it once in a while is so worthwile. Sorrowland is a combination of a lot of elements I don't typically enjoy, but it was such a valuable reading experience. I thought it might take me a while to read this, but I could absolutely not put it down. I think that's largely because I tend to expect a book of this genre to be quite heavy, and parts of it definitely were, but this also felt like a really hopeful book, and there's a lot of love between Vern and her children.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sheena

    Throughout the novel I found myself not really enjoying this and couldn’t really figure out why. At first I thought it was the writing but then I realized it’s the lack of plot. It’s more character driven with some changes happen to our main character but that wasn’t really enough for me. This kind of science fiction.. I’m not a fan of - it kind of makes me squeamish so that’s more of a personal preference thing on my end. I also feel like it could be categorized as fantasy and maybe a little bi Throughout the novel I found myself not really enjoying this and couldn’t really figure out why. At first I thought it was the writing but then I realized it’s the lack of plot. It’s more character driven with some changes happen to our main character but that wasn’t really enough for me. This kind of science fiction.. I’m not a fan of - it kind of makes me squeamish so that’s more of a personal preference thing on my end. I also feel like it could be categorized as fantasy and maybe a little bit of horror? I appreciate the multiple topics discussed such as race, sexuality, religion, misogyny, and more but I feel like it was a lot to tackle at once without any resolution. I like what Solomon did and I think the genre bending and uniqueness is great but this just sadly did not work for me. It was a big struggle to get through and I don’t think I will remember this one. I actually deeply considered not to finish it but forced myself to keep going. I was going to rate it 2 stars but I realized I didn’t like it at all. Thank you very much to Netgalley and to the publisher for an advanced copy even though I read this a month after publication date lol

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gabriella

    This book was nothing like what I expected: I was expecting more horror, and while there certainly are horror elements, this book is more of a character-driven social commentary with um, magical realism? Sorrowland is exquisitely written and wonderfully readable, flowing smoothly without ever becoming too jargon-y. Fifteen-year-old Vern escapes Cainland, a former Black-led Black refuge that became corrupted over the years. Taking refuge in the woods, Vern gives birth to twins, Howling and Feral, This book was nothing like what I expected: I was expecting more horror, and while there certainly are horror elements, this book is more of a character-driven social commentary with um, magical realism? Sorrowland is exquisitely written and wonderfully readable, flowing smoothly without ever becoming too jargon-y. Fifteen-year-old Vern escapes Cainland, a former Black-led Black refuge that became corrupted over the years. Taking refuge in the woods, Vern gives birth to twins, Howling and Feral, whose sexes are not revealed and who are raised without prescribed genders. I adored Vern’s inner monologue throughout the novel. Vern’s Blackness, her albinism, her visual impairment, her intersex identity, her attraction to women, and her unexplained bodily changes all are shown to contribute to who she is. She reconciles her past with her present and makes use of the resourcefulness she’d always displayed at Cainland. She’s a hard-edged and flawed due to everything she’s been through, but so easy to root for. As a very young mother raising her children without any help, parenthood understandably becomes overwhelming for her, and her thoughts and actions often reflect this. I can imagine some of these scenes might be hard for parents to read, but I appreciated that they were included because they seemed realistic. Though this is a dark story, it is not without its snippets of light. The twins’ innocence was refreshing and their antics made me smile. Vern also meets some side characters who are kind to her and her kids, which felt to me like a cool drink of water on a hot day. Vern’s journey toward accepting this kindness was so heartwarming to witness, and there are even some moments of sapphic tenderness that made me melt! Solomon expertly weaves past and present into a narrative that is jarring and unique. During her quest for the truth, Vern comes face-to-face with the past: sometimes figuratively, and sometimes quite literally. There are beautiful scenes that turn disturbing and disturbing scenes that turn beautiful. As secrets are revealed, Vern becomes more and more determined to annihilate the forces of evil that forever altered her life path. Oddly enough, I found my interest waning during what was probably supposed to be one of the most dramatic scenes toward the end. The ending did wrap up a bit quickly for my tastes; I would have loved an epilogue or something similar. There’s also a chapter from Howling’s POV that felt random to me. Despite my minor gripes, Sorrowland gripped me and will be one of my standout reads of 2021. content warnings: child abuse, alcohol (recreational), alcoholism, animal killings, blood, gore, body horror, cult, brainwashing, death threats, death, murder, beheading, drugging, guilt, hallucinations(?), homophobia, Stockholm syndrome, child death, manipulation, medical stuff, mind control, teenage pregnancy, childbirth, racism, racial slur, white supremacy, pedophilia, child marriage to an adult, graphic sex, suicidal ideation, suicide, stalking, forced experimentation I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    E.

    This was fucking stunning. Buddy read with Hsinju [Their review] [Rep: Black albino intersex lesbian MC cult survivour, other: Black, Lakota, wlws, winkte] I was putting off writing this review but this masterpiece came out today and I need to finally make some noise. Bear in mind that I will probably write this from scratch again after rereading the book because this quick note is definitely not sufficient. This book, so rich in intertextuality, symbolism, and rawness all enveloped in the most exc This was fucking stunning. Buddy read with Hsinju [Their review] [Rep: Black albino intersex lesbian MC cult survivour, other: Black, Lakota, wlws, winkte] I was putting off writing this review but this masterpiece came out today and I need to finally make some noise. Bear in mind that I will probably write this from scratch again after rereading the book because this quick note is definitely not sufficient. This book, so rich in intertextuality, symbolism, and rawness all enveloped in the most excellent prose, was not only words but a whole experience and made me live and breathe with its complex characters which seemed to be alive beyond just pages. It was ambitious, it sets out to explore many themes, like: - Black pain and exploitation of Black people in the USA, - Black women being pushed down the bottom in both white feminism circles and Black liberation circles, - exploration of abuse -- its many forms & perpetrators, recognising it, healing from it, - separationism vs. suffering through the worse parts of the society/ self-reliance vs. letting people in, - WoC helping WoC, - gender & sexual exploration, - the bond between mother and her children & the unit of family, and many many more that are skipping my mind, probably. And it does explore them wonderfully! Oh, and the f/f content? Magnificent! I promise to come back with more thoughts soon! ;)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emmett

    Sorrowland is an exciting, bizarre, and wholly original novel. After reading, you can certainly count me as a Rivers Solomon fan. I can’t wait to go back and read everything they have already published. I can only hope it is all as fascinating and unique as this book! Immediately pulled in by the writing, I loved the worldbuilding and the characters. I enjoyed the mounting complexity as the story developed in gradual revelations. Vern is a compelling protagonist and between Solomon’s prose and th Sorrowland is an exciting, bizarre, and wholly original novel. After reading, you can certainly count me as a Rivers Solomon fan. I can’t wait to go back and read everything they have already published. I can only hope it is all as fascinating and unique as this book! Immediately pulled in by the writing, I loved the worldbuilding and the characters. I enjoyed the mounting complexity as the story developed in gradual revelations. Vern is a compelling protagonist and between Solomon’s prose and the bizarre plot developments, it’s difficult not to feel engaged in her journey. Speaking of plot developments, this novel had one of the best twists (that I did not see coming) that I have probably ever read? Like put down the book and whisper to myself in shock for several minutes kind of plot twist. While I rate this a 4.5, I am going to round down rather than up as it hit a bit of a lull in the middle for me and it almost felt at times like the story was “going too big”, so to speak. That being said, I more than enjoyed the novel as a whole and would recommend it to any fan of the sci-fi genre. *I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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