In Peggy Riley’s magnificent debut, Amity and Sorrow (Little, Brown, Apr.), you’ll discover a world that’s assured and stunningly confident, a world populated with exquisitely flawed characters whose story bolts out of the reader’s hand and hurtles towards its conclusion—a conclusion that’s horrific, unavoidable, and magnificent all at once. Riley’s work centers on Amaranth, the first wife (among 50) of Zachariah, and her daughters, Amity and Sorrow. When the novel opens, Amaranth is in a desperate race to flee her husband, who believes himself to be a prophet. She’s taken her daughters, against their will, and has them tied together at the wrists in the back seat of her car while she speeds away from a conflagration—one that is both real and allegorical. In their life before, Sorrow was her father’s oracle and she’d do anything to regain that position. You hear echoes in Riley’s work of Jim Jones, of Waco but the story is wholly her own, powerfully told, and with a resonance rare in a first novel.