Wither by Lauren Destefano

The basics

Title: Wither


Series: The Chemical Garden #1

- Wither (March 2011)
- Fever (February 2012)
- Sever (February 2013)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape - before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

Read a full summary of Wither by Lauren Destefano below. If you can’t remember what happened in Wither and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

This recap was written by our lovely sidekick Charlie @ Reading to the Stars and Back!

In short

Rhine Ellery is kidnapped and sold to be a bride to Linden Ashby, along with two other girls, Jenna and Cecily. Lindens first wife, Rose, is twenty one, and she is dying. In this world women die at the age of 20 and men at 25. Rhine finds herself growing attached to a servant called Gabriel and plans to escape with him back to her twin brother Rowan.

What happened in Wither?

  • Rhine Ellery is abducted and taken to be a bride to Linden Ashby, along with two other girls Jenna and Cecily. Neither of these girls have met before the wedding.
  • Lindens father, Housemaster Vaughn, keeps his son in the dark about everything. He also arranged to have the girls abducted and the ones he didn’t want, to be shot.
  • Rhine has Heterochromia – her left eye is blue and the right eye is brown. This condition saved her life, otherwise she would have been shot instead of kidnapped.
  • Linden already has one wife, Rose, she is twenty one and dying because of the virus that makes women die at 20 and men at 25. Rhine and her become sort of friends before she dies. Rose tells Rhine that she doesn’t mind Linden having three other wives. Rose just wants him to be happy.
  • Linden visits Rhine’s room a couple of times but he doesn’t make sexual advances. Linden and Cecily have the first sexual encounter and soon after Cecily falls pregnant.
  • Rhine meets a servant called Gabriel whom Housemaster Vaughn bought at an auction when he was nine. She talks to him like a friend instead of a servant and they become attached.
  • Gabriel and Rhine accidentally end up in the basement and they see Housemaster Vaughn taking away Rose to be experimented on. He will do anything to find a cure for the virus.
  • Rhine finds out that Linden had another baby before with Rose but it died. One of the servants tells Rhine that she heard the baby cry before Lindens father told Rose it died.
  • Rhine and Linden go out to a social event and after, Linden kisses her.
  • There is a hurricane and Rhine jumps from her window in an attempt to escape. But she fails and Linden finds her again.
  • Housemaster Vaughn threatens Rhine to not escape again.
  • Gabriel and Rhine kiss.
  • Gabriel gets sent to the basement and Rhine worries about him.
  • Cecily gives birth to a baby boy one month early. She calls him Bowen.
  • Linden gives Rhine an elevator card, meaning she can go wherever she wants. Jenna then sets the sitting room on fire so Rhine can look for Gabriel.
  • Jenna dies soon after. Rhine suspects Housemaster Vaughn had something to do with her death. She later finds out that Cecily told Housemaster Vaughn about Rhine kissing Gabriel and how Jenna helped them by setting the sitting room on fire.
  • Rhine begins to grow fond of Linden, her husband. But she still wants to escape and find her twin brother.

How did it end?

Rhine and Gabriel escape the mansion and head for Rhine’s home in Manhattan. Cecily helps them.

Anything else?

Gatherers – they make a living collecting brides and selling them off to breed new children.

The First Wife, this doesn’t refer to the order of marriage, it is the position of power. The first wife attends all of the social events and is basically the favourite.

Sister wives…the wives that Linden has married in addition to Rhine.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Wither by Lauren Destefano. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

Other recaps for this series:


  • Thank you so much for this!!! This site is GENIUS. I bought Sever a few weeks ago, but have been holding off on reading it because I can’t remember what happened in Wither and Fever very well and I have been debating about whether to reread them or not because they aren’t favorite books of mine, but I did like them. You saved me from spending hours on rereading so I can tackle the rest of my TBR pile in the meantime.

    Is there a chance that there will be a recaption of Fever soon? All I can remember is that it was kind of creepy and that the last line in the book was a cliffhanger!

    • I’m currently writing the re-cap for Fever! I called dibs, haha! I bought Sever too and honestly can’t remember a thing about Fever so it’s great for me too!

      Charlie xx

  • I literally can’t wait for the recap of Fever as I have Sever in my to read pile so I will read the recaps of both the first 2 books, thanks again for your wonderful blog! 😀

  • Sabrina says:

    I have been looking for a site like this forever. I have a terrible ‘book memory’ and I’m always re-reading books before I can finish a series. Seriously cool site. Following GFC and by email. <3<3<3

    Sabrina @iheartyafiction

  • Aliyah says:

    I can´t quite remember what day Rhine and Gabriel had planned to escape. wasn´t it the Thursday he takes out the trash?

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