This "fiercely written and endlessly readable" novel of a teenage girl in thrall to a magnetic--and terrifying--preacher who promises to save her dying town is "a godsend" (Entertainment Weekly).
Drought has settled on the town of Peaches, California. The area of the Central Valley where fourteen-year-old Lacey May and her alcoholic mother live was once an agricultural paradise. Now it's an environmental disaster, a place of cracked earth and barren raisin farms. In their desperation, residents have turned to a cult leader named Pastor Vern for guidance. He promises, through secret "assignments," to bring the rain everybody is praying for.
Lacey has no reason to doubt the pastor. But then her life explodes in a single unimaginable act of abandonment: her mother, exiled from the community for her sins, leaves Lacey and runs off with a man she barely knows. Abandoned and distraught, Lacey May moves in with her widowed grandma, Cherry, who is more concerned with her taxidermy mouse collection than her own granddaughter. As Lacey May endures the increasingly appalling acts of men who want to write all the rules and begins to uncover the full extent of Pastor Vern's shocking plan to bring fertility back to the land, she decides she must go on a quest to find her mother no matter what it takes. With her only guidance coming from the romance novels she reads and the unlikely companionship of the women who knew her mother, she must find her own way through unthinkable circumstances.
Possessed of an unstoppable plot and a brilliantly soulful voice, Godshot is a book of grit and humor and heart, a debut novel about female friendship and resilience, mother-loss and motherhood, and seeking salvation in unexpected places. It introduces a writer who gives Flannery O'Connor's Gothic parables a Californian twist and who emerges with a miracle that is all her own.
"[A] haunting debut . . . This is a harrowing tale, which Bieker smartly writes through the lens of a teenager on the cusp of understanding the often fraught relationship between religion and sexuality . . . It's a timely and disturbing portrait of how easily men can take advantage of vulnerable women--and the consequences sink in more deeply with each page."--Annabel Gutterman, Time
"Drawn in brilliant, bizarre detail--baptism in warm soda, wisdom from romance novels--Lacey's twin crises of faith and femininity tangle powerfully. Fiercely written and endlessly readable, a novel like this is a godsend. A-."--Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly
"[An] absolute masterpiece . . . Imagine if Annie Proulx wrote something like White Oleander crossed with Geek Love or Cruddy, and then add cults, God, motherhood, girlhood, class, deserts, witches, the divinity of women . . . Terrifying, resplendent, and profoundly moving, this book will leave you changed." --T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
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About the Author
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"[A] luminous debut novel . . . Combining a topsy-turvy plot and a beautifully drawn mother-daughter relationship, Bieker delivers unto us an exquisitely peculiar tale of innocence lost." --O, The Oprah Magazine
"[A] haunting debut . . . This is a harrowing tale, which Bieker smartly writes through the lens of a teenager on the cusp of understanding the often fraught relationship between religion and sexuality . . . It's a timely and disturbing portrait of how easily men can take advantage of vulnerable women--and the consequences sink in more deeply with each page." --Annabel Gutterman, Time
"Surreal . . . Godshot culminates in a dizzying depiction of childbirth--a true holy rite that instantly reveals the falseness of the rest."--Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
Godshot, from debut author Chelsea Bieker, is an unnerving tour de force. Exploring the gritty, confounding ways innocence--especially girlhood--clash with spirituality, family, love, and gender, the story follows 14-year-old Lacey, who lives in a Californian town paralyzed by drought." --Lauren Puckett, Elle
"Drawn in brilliant, bizarre detail--baptism in warm soda, wisdom from romance novels--Lacey's twin crises of faith and femininity tangle powerfully. Fiercely written and endlessly readable, a novel like this is a godsend. A-." --Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly
"A spectacular novel . . . What follows is a gritty, gripping tale of girlhood, spirituality, and how salvation comes from the unlikeliest of place." --Esquire, A Best Book of the Year
"Stunning . . . [Godshot]glimmers in its hypnotic prose, in its use of humor and color and sensual detail and its unflinching portrayal of the ways people hurt each other, and how they show up for each other . . . brims with hope, even a deep sense of love and forgiveness. It does not flinch away from the worst sides of humanity. But it doesn't shy away from earnestness either, and is generous with its faith--not in Vern, but in love." --The Seattle Times
"Depicting the ravages of economic disaster and the cruelty desperate people will accept in return for promises of a better life, Godshot is about patriarchy, extremist religion and their result, misogyny and sexual violence. And yet, despite being distressing at times, the book leaves room for light and a twisted sort of humor--even as Peaches spirals into darkness." --Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times
"Bieker's debut novel is a vivid and cutting exploration of unconditional female love. It observes how mothers shape daughters, biological or otherwise, and how daughters must ultimately learn to mother themselves. Young readers will admire Lacy May's resilience, moxie, and ability to survive in a world she did not choose." --Booklist (starred review)
"Bieker has written a debut that joins Emma Cline's The Girls and R.O. Kwon's The Incendiaries in exploring the uneasy intersection of repressive religious belief and burgeoning sexuality, but Bieker's exploration of the way that poverty and environmental ravishment also add to the subjugation of the female body adds more rich layers to this narrative . . . A dark, deft first novel about the trauma and resilience of both people and the land they inhabit." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)