Chelsea Bieker (Author)


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

Product Details

$26.00  $23.92
Publish Date
March 31, 2020
5.5 X 1.2 X 8.3 inches | 1.15 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Chelsea Bieker is from California's Central Valley. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer's Foundation Award and her fiction and essays have been published in Granta, McSweeney's, Catapult magazine, Electric Literature, and Joyland, among other publications. She was awarded a MacDowell Colony fellowship and holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University. Godshot is her first novel.


Praise for Godshot

An American Booksellers Association Indie Next Selection
Entertainment Weekly, 1 of 20 Must-Read Titles for This Month
A Library Journal Writer on the Rise
The March 2020 Rumpus Book Club Selection
Library Journal, A 2020 Title to Watch
Goodreads, 1 of 21 Debut Authors to Discover Now
Bustle, 1 of the 20 Must-Read Books of the Year
One of Big Other's Most Anticipated Small Press Books of the Year
The Rumpus, What to Read When the New Year Is Just Around the Corner
PureWow, 1 of the 44 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Year
BuzzFeed, 1 of 83 Books to Keep on your Radar This Year
iHeartRadio, 1 of 13 Must Read Books Coming Out This Month
Betches, 1 of 20 Books to Read This Year
She the People, 1 of 70 Books by Women Authors to Look Out for This Year
InsideHook, 1 of 5 New Books You Should Be Reading This Month
Purewow, 1 of 14 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Month

"[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

"A nefarious religious cult right out of Gilead, a phone sex line, and a beautifully-rendered mother-daughter relationship--if you're not intrigued already, maybe there's no salvation for you. Think Maria Semple's Where'd You Go Bernadette meets Emma Cline's The Girls." --O, the Oprah Magazine, 1 of the 30 Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"[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

"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

"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. It's a lot to juggle, but Lacey May is such a strong narrator, at once deeply insightful and painfully naïve, that readers will eagerly want to follow all the threads to the breathless conclusion. A dark, deft first novel about the trauma and resilience of both people and the land they inhabit." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Lacey May's is an irresistible voice, part gullible believer, part whip-smart independent spirit who surprises at every turn. Debut novelist Bieker weaves in the political battles being fought on multiple fronts." --Library Journal (starred review)

"The miracle of Chelsea Bieker's Godshot, then, is not just that Bieker masters young Lacey May's voice, but that she makes every moment of Lacey's unbelievable life feel crisp, raw and deeply, achingly real . . . Godshot is a monumental exploration of faith, family and what it means to be a woman in a strange, cruel, wondrous world . . . Bieker has pulled off a stunning debut, revealing a deep-rooted talent that will, no doubt, bear more fruit." --Lauren Puckett, Shelf Awareness (starred review)

"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)

"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

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

"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

"This is a dynamite of a debut novel, one that reveals the true grit of girlhood under the long arm of religion and patriarchy when a cult leader threatens to undo a young woman motherless and marooned in a cruel California town. Bieker writes with a stroke of fever and ferocity I have yet to encounter from a debut novelist in a long time, which is why Godshot will be one of the most flaming-hot forays you'll read this year." --Paris Close, Paperback Paris

"Godshot is dark, suspenseful, and surprisingly funny." --Katherine Barrette, Cosmopolitan

"[A] breathtaking debut." --Keely Weiss, Harper's Bazaar

"Dark, fierce and brilliant." --Sarah Cassavant, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Think The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood meets The Girls by Emma Cline." --Emma Webster, The Bold Italic

"Don't miss it." --Jeva Lange, The Week

"If you're looking to disappear into a novel, this fiery debut will do the trick." --Jinnie Lee, Here Magazine

"[A] pointedly lyrical narrative." --Library Journal, A Best Debut Novel of the Year

"You should add Godshot to your reading list right away." --Alison Stewart, WNYC's "All of It"

"Religious fanaticism, environmental disaster, and gender inequality form the core of Bieker's propulsive, ambitious debut centered on 14-year-old Lacey May and her drought-stricken hometown of Peaches, Calif. . . . Bieker straddles the line between darkly comic and downright dark, and excels in portraying female friendships--mother-daughter duo Daisy and Florin, who run a phone sex operation and step in to help Lacey, are particularly memorable--and the setting, a town full of abandoned shops and concrete canals and surrounded by dusty fields. Delving into patriarchal religious zealotry, Bieker's excellent debut plants themes seen in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale into a realistic California setting that will linger with readers." --Publishers Weekly

"Godshot distills the darkness, light, and wild courage that are so entwined and necessary in the process of becoming yourself. This coming of age story masterfully balances the particular obstacles that Lacey must face: an absent mother, a manipulative and domineering religious leader, the blind devotion of her peers, and lastly, her own gleaming will and desperation to do right by the land that she loves." --Julia Hass, Literary Hub

"[Godshot] shows a world where women's bodies are not their own, where one man has the authority to determine what happens to those bodies. It's a heightened portrait, but Godshot is a story that parallels some of the challenges faced in the United States today . . . [Bieker's] debut novel . . . is a shout to the world: I'm here. I have something to say. And I can capture your imagination as I do it." --Carla Jean Whitley, BookPage

"Try not to get excited about a book that's described as Flannery O'Connor's Gothic parables cut with a California twist." --Patrick Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 of 18 Bay Area Books to Look for This Year

"Godshot is more than just a study of the conditions that make cults irresistible. At its heart, it is a story about losing a mother and gaining a self . . . Beyond her mesmerizing world-building, what Bieker ultimately captures so well in Godshot is how flimsy the stories we tell ourselves reveal themselves to be when we reckon with them critically." --Kristen Martin, BOMB

"It's a harrowing but elegantly wrought exploration of trauma and autonomy." --Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed

"[A] beautifully written book . . . Bieker truly understands how to craft a complete character and that is on full display here." --Adam Vitcage, Debutiful

"Bieker's novel is an explosive telling of girlhood, family bonds, and finding your place in the world." --Adam Vitcavage, Electric Literature, 1 of the 20 Most Anticipated Debuts of the Year

"A harrowing story of abandonment, pain, a cult that's never heard of global warming, and ultimately redemption, and true family." --Emily Temple, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"Godshot is a piercing debut novel filled with devastating imagery (sticky baptisms performed with soda instead of water) and a girl named Lacey May Herd who is brought up to believe that suffering brings you closer to God. When Lacey May is forced to live with her grandmother after her troubled mother abandons her, she must reckon with the pastor's grand plan for Peaches and the damaging ways we choose to satisfy our thirsts." --Maris Kriezman, Vulture, 1 of 32 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Year

"Bieker's debut novel, Godshot, takes her readers to the fertile fields of California, where divinities are seemingly as much of a bumper crop as avocados, except for adolescent Lacey May there's lots of the former and little of the later (or any other crop for that matter) . . . A gothic phantasmagoria, Bieker's book explores the ways in which cultish devotion in times of ecological catastrophe can seemingly push groups of people towards a social apocalypse--a novel eerily pertinent in 2020." --The Millions, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"[A] blazing novel about the messes made when blind faith metastasizes into madness . . . Bieker's portraits of people are harrowing, demolishing the affectations of followers and survivors alike. Her cast includes doulas and pimps, addicts and liars, and children who mimic adults in their struggle to subsist; the novel's grace is that it makes second chances available to all among them who are brave enough to extend empathy to others. Godshot is a flinty, exemplary novel that celebrates everyday rebellions, demolishing blind religious fervor and unmasking charlatans as it goes." --Foreword Reviews (starred review)

"It's a hard read at times--the abuse Lacey May suffers, combined her lack of understanding of her own body and what's happening, makes your heart ache. But that's the power of Bieker's writing: She feels so real, you just want to reach through the pages to hold her. A gripping, engaging read." --Emily Burack, Alma

"[A] gripping debut novel." --Frannie Jackson, Paste, 1 of the 25 Most Anticipated Novels of the Year

"A story, at its core, about resilience, this novel shows the power of female bonds in the face of seemingly godlike powers--some are calling Bieker a Californian Flannery O'Connor." --Domino

"Godshot tackles religious zealots and cult buy-in and the anxieties of climate change backgrounded by a fresh coming-of-age story." --Thrillist, 1 of 21 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Year

"It's a literary masterpiece; its themes of trauma, motherless-ness, and resilience will stay with you for a long time." --Elizabeth Entenman, HelloGiggles

"Godshot tantalizes as a cult thriller . . . Bieker's novel feels familiar, devastating, like it has already happened, could, or might again. It's the story, too, of motherhood in all its iterations, from abandonment to adoption, at the best of times and worst, and the moments, no matter how small, of love." --Sarah Appleton Pine, Ploughshares

"An utterly captivating, driving plot alongside unforgettable characters and incisive prose. She explores the ever-fascinating and puzzling subject of life inside a religious cult in a fresh, tender way. Bieker's words are alluring and beautifully-wrought, crisp and straight-forward while also steeped in emotion . . . Godshot, much like its stunning cover, is a sparkling wonder of a debut novel that tugs fiercely at the heartstrings." --Beth Mowbray, The Nerd Daily

"Godshot is wise, tough, electrifying, beautiful--every raw detail sings true. Chelsea Bieker writes about pain and resilience like nobody else." --Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks

"Chelsea Bieker's Godshot is an absolute masterpiece. A truly epic journey through girlhood, divinity, and the blood that binds and divides us, it is a feminist magnum opus of this, or any, time. Bieker is a pitch-perfect ventriloquist of extraordinary talent and ferocity. 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

"Godshot is the kind of book you find yourself thinking about incessantly. By turns desolate and rich, Chelsea Bieker's novel lets a parched tongue find relief in its pages. It is a book about the kind of salvation we can find in other people, but also about the miracle of finding that kind of all-consuming love inside ourselves. It is tenderness and trauma. It is violence. It's sorting through the mess, looking for answers. Bieker is a dynamo, and Godshot is a beautiful blow to the heart." --Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things

"I cried as I finished reading Godshot. It's a novel of rebirth: baptism and heartbreak, daughterhood and motherhood. Lacey May is a yearning, whip-smart, brokenhearted believer, and I miss her now that the novel has ended. Chelsea Bieker has written a wholly real and beautifully written coming-of-age tale that is sure to be an instant classic." --Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You're Hungry

"Godshot is a dazzling, darkly funny debut from a writer whose charm, wit, and blistering intelligence will scorch your heart. With unsentimental compassion and unprecedented style, Bieker steeps this brutal, harrowing story in hope. The prose shimmers and swerves--so full of gritty truths and resplendent beauty, I drenched every page in highlighter." --Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light

"An un-put-downable saga of the raw strength it takes to live in the Californian desert while trying to find the mother that left you in the hands of your grandmother and the local cult. Edgy, harsh, but still beautiful. Godshot is a must-read!" --Hannah Stewart, Yuma County Library District

"The people suffering from a severe drought in the small town of Peaches in California's Central Valley are the perfect victims for cult leader Pastor Vern who promises to bring the rain if everyone obeys him and carries out their 'assignments.' Fourteen-year-old Lacey, abandoned by her mother, wavers between subservience and rebellion--especially after she is made to carry out her own 'assignment.' This was a well-written, engrossing, and quite disturbing picture of a cult life and manipulation of women." --Cathe Olson, Robert E. Kennedy Library

"4.5 stars. The only reason I didn't give 5 stars was because the ending felt slightly rushed. Otherwise, I thought the writing, pacing, and character development were all great. I will definitely be recommending this title to friends, family, and patrons." --Erin Parks, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System