by Rivers Solomon

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LoveReading Expert Review of Sorrowland

This fiercely powerful gothic fairy tale resonates with real-life rawness as a young fugitive flees the commune she was raised in to raise her twins in the woods.

From its arresting opening (“The child gushed out from twixt Vern’s legs ragged and smelling of salt. Slight, he was, and feeble as a promise”), Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is an exquisite fusion of folkloric atmosphere and raw human experience. Through the eyes of unforgettable, invincible Vern, and in luminously commanding language, Solomon explores racism, religion, misogyny and motherhood with magnificent boldness. 

Fifteen-year-old Vern’s firstborn arrived in the world without his mother’s albinism and his father’s “yellow-bonedness”. His skin was “dark-dark, and Vern found it hard to believe that the African ancestry that begat such a hue had ever once been disrupted by whiteness.” And then comes his twin - two brothers, Howling and Feral, born in the woods beyond the Blessed Acres of Cain compound that Vern fled two months ago. With origins in the Black Power movement, the religious community’s survivalist ethos stands her in good stead for a life in the wild - “she always had a way of getting what she needed from the earth”.

Years pass and Vern tells her now-toddler sons about Cainland’s history, about the “white doctors who came in the night to rob Black People for medical experimentation” as she notices strange shifts in her body - it heals from terrible burns and rotting infections. “A side effect of the poison they’d been giving her giving her since birth” she thinks, soon deciding they must leave the woods. This unfamiliar outside world “increased Howling’s surliness and transformed Feral’s sweet curiosity into spirited adventurousness”, and the trio attract as much bewildered attention as the world bewilders them. As Vern’s sickness intensifies so too does the creeping sense of pursuit, and rising love and lusts, to create a bizarre and beautiful book that’s entirely unbridled by convention.

Joanne Owen

Sorrowland Synopsis

A triumphant, genre-bending novel, following a young Black woman through a nightmarish yet recognisable landscape as she attempts to create a new life for herself and her children.

Vern, a hunted woman alone in the woods, gives birth to twins and raises them away from the influence of the outside world. But something is wrong - not with them, but with her own body. It's changing, it's stronger, it's not normal.

To understand her body's metamorphosis, Vern must investigate the secluded religious compound from which she fled and the violent history of dehumanisation, medical experimentation and genocide that produced it. In the course of reclaiming her own darkness, Vern learns that monsters aren't just individuals, but entire histories, systems and nations.

Rivers Solomon's Sorrowland is a memorable work of Gothic fiction that wrestles with the tangled history of racism in America and the marginalisation of society's undesirables. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction. 

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781529118759
Publication date: 7th April 2022
Author: Rivers Solomon
Publisher: Merky Books an imprint of Cornerstone
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 368 pages
Primary Genre Literary Fiction
Other Genres:

What To Read After Sorrowland

We Run the Tides
The Daves Next Door
The Bone Road

Rivers Solomon Press Reviews

A fantastical, fierce reckoning ... Sorrowland is gorgeous, and the writing, the storytelling, 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. -- Roxane Gay

Sorrowland is a wonderland of fantastical and frightening, magical and real. At the centre of this world and leaping off the page is Vern: unstoppable, unforgettable, and unlike anyone you have ever seen before. -- Marlon James, Booker Prize-winning author

A furious utopia. Utterly compelling, brilliant and terrifying. Sorrowland seizes the history of white supremacy, racist medical experimentation, and the dream - and danger - of the commune and gnashes it into something magnificent and truly reparative. An epic fantasy that interweaves righteous, large-scale confrontations with power, extremely sexy and moving erotic gothic horror, and exquisite, meticulous renderings of the daily life of parenting. This is a fairy tale for adults, spangled in the wreckage of the world.

A gorgeous, singular, and profound work. -- Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox

The writing is visceral and soul-clenching. The characters - bold, creative, and memorable. The action, heart-stopping. This is imaginative storytelling at its finest. Once I started, I could not put down Sorrowland until I reached the end. And then I wanted more! -- Djeli Clark, author of Ring Shout

Sorrowland is a raw, powerful, and visceral read. Nature, joy, science, belonging, human metamorphosis, generational oppression, strength, and sheer lust for life: if Toni Morrison, M. Night Shyamalan, and Marge Piercy got together they might, if they were lucky, produce something with the unstoppable exhilaration of this novel. Sorrowland is sui generis. -- Nicola Griffith, author of Hild

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781529118759
Publication date: 07/04/2022
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781529118735
Publication date: 06/05/2021
Format: Hardback

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About Rivers Solomon

Rivers Solomon is the author of An Unkindness of Ghosts, winner of the CLMP Firecracker Award for best independently published novel, and The Deep, a novella written in collaboration with Daveed Diggs and the rap group clipping., which was the winner of the 2020 Lambda Award and a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Goodreads Choice literary awards. Faer writing has been featured in Black Warrior Review, The New York Times, Guernica, Best American Short Stories and elsewhere. Originally from Turtle Island, fae currently lives in London with faer family.

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