Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a story you simply won’t see coming. You might think you’ve figured out the pillars of its structure after a few chapters, or come to truly understand its protagonist after walking a few dozen pages with her, but to read this powerful, moving and terrifying novel is to enter into a constant state of change. The story envelops you slowly, like a cocoon, wrapping you in its ever-increasing depth and heart until you emerge, at the end, transformed.
Sorrowland follows Vern, a pregnant woman who flees to the woods in a desperate attempt to escape the religious compound that was once her home. She fights for survival, first as an expectant mother, then as a fierce parent and protector of twin children. But the compound, it turns out, isn’t willing to let her go so easily, and not just because of its cultlike grip. Something darker is at work in Vern’s life, something at the core of her existence that she’ll have to face if she’s ever going to have a future.
As Vern gradually awakens to the wider world and its wonders and terrors, Solomon charts her journey through prose that is both economical and fiercely emotional. What’s most striking is the way in which Solomon captures Vern’s creeping, often frightening realization that the world is altogether more complex and monstrous than she once thought.
Full of horror, love and incisive observation, Sorrowland is so perfectly plotted that readers won’t be able to predict what’s to come any better than Vern can. It’s a truly powerful piece of storytelling.