Cover Image: Sorrowland

Sorrowland

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Member Reviews

Crazy book but also a really engaging story with a protagonist (Vern) who is fierce, resourceful and strong but also vulnerable.   This is a story of a religious/political community gone wrong and how our upbringing shapes everything we do in many subtle ways.   The audiobook I listened to was very well narrated.  There are so many potential trigger warnings with this book but she writes it all so well, and with so much heart it makes it all easier to bear.
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The book follows Vern who lives within a compound, she escapes into the woods to give birth to her twins and remains there for years. When see starts to become unwell she and the twins go on an adventure to get help. And thats when the book gets interesting. Verns hauntings are getting worse and becoming more real. 

The book changes genre throughout during the journey, you have gothic, sci-fi, fantasy. The book also touches on topics/themes like gender, sexuality, race, motherhood.

The characters are well written and give different layers. The narration was also easy to follow the story and keeps you drawn in. 

The book certainly be great for book clubs as there is so much happening and great for discussions. This is certainly not forgettable but also is one that takes a while to digest and think over at the end.

Thank you to NetGallery and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the audiobook to give an honest review.
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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.
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(4.5/5 stars) My second book from Rivers Solomon, and again this is a book unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Genre-defying, dark, incredibly imaginative and incredibly chilling in how believable these horrors were…yet somehow I also felt hope in these pages and the encouragement to resist.

Initially I found the book a bit slow – the narration pace seemed a little drawn out (though Chilton’s narration is gorgeous and so emotive!) and I almost considered switching to a faster speed – but I soon got used to it and this problem disappeared after I became invested in Vern’s story (which didn’t take long).

Vern is such a distinctive character, in her voice, backstory and personality. ‘Sorrowland’ is more of a character-driven story with a plot that spans several genres: horror, mystery/thriller, sci-fi-fantasy, contemporary…there might be other genres that ‘Sorrowland’ draws upon too. While character-driven, there is also an intriguing and increasingly foreboding mystery plotline and more than once I clapped my hands to my mouth in shock. The sci-fi elements felt particularly original as well.

Reading this as an audiobook really let me just roll with whatever happened, whether it was flashbacks of Vern’s childhood, hauntings of friend, foe or stranger, sudden plot twists or revelations. This served this book so well as it really showcases the unpredictable trajectory of the story, regardless of whether we were looking to the future or diving into the past via flashback expositions. I was surprised by the amount of explicit sexual content in this, but it didn’t feel gratuitous and was important for Vern’s character arc in coming to terms with her sexuality.

My favourite part of this book was probably Vern’s bond with her children, and the found family element. It felt real and messy and so fiercely loving, and made me laugh too! I loved that we got a flashback into Ruthanne’s backstory too (she’s Vern’s mother) – it was just one example of how ‘Sorrowland’ shows the impact of a long history of institutionalised racism, classism and state-sanctioned violence (and probably more too). I also really appreciated how intersectional this book was, for example disability rep, queer, intersex and trans rep, Black and Native American rep.

‘Sorrowland’ is a book probably best gone into without knowing much beforehand – though of course I’d take heed of content warnings. I’m glad I had the chance to read this unique and powerful book!
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CULTS, BODY HORROR AND POSTCOLONIALISM? Do sign me up.
This book was so mindboggling and had me utterly confused form start to finish, but in the best kind of way. I think it's very hard to pull off that level of genrebending confusion infused within a narrative in a way that makes the pay off worth ... everything else ... but Solomon has written this in such a way that you never at one point doubt it will all be worth it and it feels as though you are carefully led through the narrative if only you have enough patience to see where it leads you.
SORROWLAND is a fascinating, unique exploration of generational trauma, collective memory and the body as a place of tension.
I think this is the kind of book that makes you feel as though you are working towards something, but not in an exhausting way, more so in a manner that will make finishing the book feel like you've really earned something. It's capitavating and intricate and the kind of book that invites reread upon reread, each time a promise that your reading experience is bound to be drastically different each time.
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A muddle of different genres that somehow came together really well. I spent the first few chapters of this book wondering what on earth it was even about but was impressed by the way the story pulled together. The narration was beautiful and suited the tone of the book perfectly
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Mixed feelings for this one, and I feel the book has a rather mixed identity in terms of genre. There are elements of fantasy, literary fiction, family drama, LGBTQ, and even perhaps thriller at times.
I listened to the audiobook of this title, and I was fully engaged for the 2 days it took to finish it. The narrator has a lovely, warm voice as she spoke the wonderful descriptions, and I would definitely listen to more of her work.
The main character Vern is extremely likeable, and I cheered her on throughout, sympathising with the situations she found herself in, and marvelling at the friendships she made. 
A really enjoyable book, and I look forward to reading more of Solomon's work.
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My thanks to Penguin Random House U.K. Audio for an unabridged audiobook edition via NetGalley of ‘Sorrowland’ by Rivers Solomon in exchange for an honest review. The audiobook was narrated by Karen Chilton with a running time of 12 hours, 01 minute at 1x speed.

This is undoubtedly a strange, genre spanning novel. Its lead character is Vern, a fifteen-year-old Black woman with albinism. She has escaped from a strict religious compound into the woods; though she is being hunted by someone or something. There she gives birth to twins and raises them away from the influences of the modern world.

Yet Vern knows something is wrong with her body, it is changing: becoming stronger and she is developing extra-sensory powers. In order to 
understand her metamorphosis, Vern investigates the religious community and the violent history of dehumanisation, medical experimentation, and genocide that produced it. 

This was a promising premise that drew me strongly and I also enjoy novels that span genres. In part I felt that it fulfilled this initial promise but drifted (at least for me) as it progressed. 

The first part of the novel as Vern carved out a place in the deep woods for herself and her children was fascinating and I was totally engaged.
However, as the weirdness of Vern’s metamorphosis began to dominate the narrative, I found it increasingly difficult to follow the plot and connect to its characters. Also, ‘Sorrowland’ was packed with the kind of material that necessitates content warnings. It began to feel excessive and turned me away.

I certainly felt that Rivers Solomon’s writing was powerful and I have also heard many good things about their work. I will look into reading their earlier books or perhaps return for a closer reading of ‘Sorrowland’ at another time. 

In terms of the audiobook edition, Karen Chilton has narrated a wide range of audiobooks as well as being an established actor and writer. Her voice is rich and mature, which could have been strange given such a young lead as Vern. Yet the novel is dealing with serious subjects and Karen Chilton brought that gravitas to her reading. Also, as the novel is told in the third person it felt appropriate to have its narrator fulfilling more of a storyteller role.

It is difficult to judge whether a novel such as ‘Sorrowland’ will appeal to a particular reader or not. I found it quite challenging in terms of content though that is not necessarily a barrier in terms of recommending, more something to be aware of.
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Such an impactful, thought-provoking read. I'm so glad I was given the chance to listen to the audiobook - Karen Chilton did an amazing job bringing the characters' pain, strength and determination to life. I loved the more surreal and science fiction elements to the story, and Howling and Feral were my favourite characters, with their innocence and wild freedom. There were times when I struggled to relate to some of the characters, particularly when making decisions that differed from how I would react, but this didn't stop me being moved by Rivers Solomon's lyrical writing, which painted a picture of loss, grief and injustice, and hope for change and rebirth.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with and audio ARC of this book in exchange for and honest review.

I'm not sure how to approach writing this review. I've never read anything by Solomon, I had no idea at all what to expect, apart from the short and somewhat vague blurb. I had no expectations, other than hope that I would enjoy it. The experience of reading this book surpassed all the expectations I could've had.

Sorrowland is not an easy book, nor a book that is for everyone. I've realised recently that I enjoy "weird" books - books that don't fit a specific genre, ones that do unconventional things with the plot, narration or the characters. This is exactly what Sorrowland did. Solomon touches on so many issues in this book, and although the story itself is speculative, the issues very much apply to our real world. It is brutal, honest and talks about race, identity, sexuality, gender and so much more.

I loved the writing. After reading Sorrowland, I swiftly added all of the other books by the author to my TBR. It was lyrical, without sounding pretentious; incredibly atmospheric and beautiful, even the horrifying and brutal parts. 

Vern was a really strong and interesting character. I enjoyed following her throughout the story as she learned about who she was and what Cainland did to her. I really liked her children, too, and the relationship they had. Well developed familial relationships are something I love in books, no matter the genre. 

I've seen people complain about how slow the middle of the book was, but I couldn't disagree more. I think Solomon paced the story really well, and it flowed naturally. It was a perfect blend of action and character development. I found the book interesting all throughout. 

The only thing about Sorrowland I didn't enjoy were the overly explicit sex scenes. They didn't ruin it for me, and I understand why the author has put them in, but I don't ever find them necessary, and prefer the fade to black approach.

I can't say much more without spoiling anything about the book. I think it's best to go into it knowing very little, and watching it unfold.
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Beautifully written and narrated. The writing and storytelling are exceptional and had me hooked from the first few sentences. Although set in an alternative world, 'Sorrowland' touches on contemporary issues of hate and violence. The book also touches on gender, sexuality and motherhood and at times a distressing read but also profound and moving.

I can't wait to see the reaction from people when this novel is published as it is sure to be a bestseller. I also cannot wait to see what Rivers Solomon publishes next.

This is the first audiobook that I have managed to listen to in it's entirety as usually I cannot get onboard with audio.
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"Vern wished to make every moment of her life a rebellion, not just against the Blessed Acres of Cain but the world in all its entirety. Nothing would be spared her resistance." 

Wow, wow, wow, where to start with this review!! There is so much I would like say about Sorrowland, I would have loved to have read it with a friend because if ever there was a book that should be discussed, debated and read with other bookish buddies, it is this one.  

The book opens with an albino 15 year old Vern, giving birth to twins alone in the woods after running away from the Blessed Acres of Cain, the cultist compound she grew up in. Although, she knows someone is after her and her children, she is determined to never return. As Vern makes a life for her family, living free from the influences of others, she starts to notice some unusual changes happening to her body. To understand her metamorphosis, Vern has to uncover the dark history and powers behind the compound she left. 

The skill in which Rivers Sololmon wrote this book is incredibly remarkable. It's a perfect blend of magical realism and speculative fiction, mixed with some gothic horror and even a beautiful dash of queer smut. All entwined in a deep rooted story that examines America's abuse of power and the systems that help to maintain it. Not only does Solomon cover this dynamic of the corruptible and exploitable nature of power, both institutional and within personal relationships. They have created some of the most amazing multidimensional, diverse and intersectional characters I've read in a while.   

The way Vern approached motherhood and parenting while bringing them up living the woods, was so enjoyable to read and challenged conventions. Her children, Howling and Feral have unique personalities of their own that radiate off the pages. The character development, brilliant pacing and layered plot all made for an outstanding book. 

Karen Chilton's audiobook narration is phenomenal and completely immersed me into the story. I highly recommend listening to it but you're anything like me and enjoy making copious highlights, you'll definitely also want a copy of the book. 

5 stars 

Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Penguin Random House UK Audio and Merky Books for providing me with the e-arc and audiobook to review.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK Audio for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sorrowland was a truly gripping and so beautifully written. It truly highlights Rivers Solomon's incredible talent as a writer and their incredible brain to create this novel with a sense of reality. I felt so moved whilst listening to this audiobook and this story was so unique I couldn't help but be drawn in. Karen Chilton's narration of this book was fantastic and did the novel justice. I really enjoyed the listening experience and I felt really immersed in this story.
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This book was so amazing- the topic of cults and extreme groups is sensitively dealt with. Race, religion and modern world issues were discussed openly, but taken to the next level with a sci fi edge. The strong female lead- Vern- was wonderful. A protective mother, a passionate lover and a clever deep thinker. Her life has not be easy or normal, and the effects of the cult treatments leave her vulnerable to the outside world. This does not stop her, she learns how to turn every negative in to a positive. 
Such a clever plot. I hope there are more books about this character and what happens next.
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A brutal and distressing tale told in a lyrical prose. While I appreciated the themes and lgbtq+ rep in this novel I had a hard time with the pacing, which I found too slow. I'm sure other readers will find it more captivating than I did.
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*I received an ALC of this book in exchange for an honest review*

1.5 stars.
This book was very hard for me to finish. I almost DNF this. Almost.
It started out okay 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.

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
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