I am such a sucker for dystopian fiction For fans of Janet Fitch s White Oleander and Emma Cline s The Girls, Godshot is a dazzling literary debut by Rona Jaffe Award winner Chelsea Bieker about one teenage girl s feminist awakening and her search for her missing mother Forthcoming April 7, 2020 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 Concerned With Her Taxidermy Mice 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 CircumstancesPossessed 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 Updated, actual review 1 18 20 I received an ARC from the publisher, opinions are my own.This book is so surprising on so many levels It s about a teenage girl named Lacey May who lives in a drought ravaged town called Peaches in California s central valley A good chunk of the town is under the spell of a glitter loving pastor named Vern, who uses the permeating scarcity of resources and desperation of people whose agricultural identity has withered to gain power for himself through the church cult he creates, Gifts of the Spirit Vern has lots of secret assignments for his disciples which are unsurprisingly very horrifying, but Lacey doesn t know this when she seeks her assignment after getting her first period Lacey s mother is the town beauty, a former pageant girl and current alcoholic When she relapses and is banished from the church, she abandons Lacey to live with her grandmother Cherry a very compelling character, but I ll let you see that unfold on your own As Lacey navigates her new motherless life, one filled with new eye opening abuses, dead flies, manipulative men, and a haven of phone sex workers in a red house at the edge of town, she longs for her mother, eventually leaving to search for her The imagery of climate change as it snakes around in the landscape and bodies of the people in Peaches is visceral, and tightly connected to the idea of motherhood Death, hope, despair, survival, pain, and humor curl up in this prose, and it will probably break your heart dozens of times The style and plot stand alone, and I love it Highly recommend.Original review 9 7 19 This novel grabbed my heart, mind, spirit, and language aesthetic and MASHED IT ALL TOGETHER INTO GLITTER GOO If someone had told me a synopsis of this story I honestly probably wouldn t have picked it up based on that alone, because I usually think I know what I m going to like like a fool But the combination of having heard the author read an essay at AWP that I loved, and the hype from basically all of my other favorite writers T Kira Madden, Genevieve Hudson, etc , I was excited about it To the extent I had any expectations, they were exceeded It s a story about the relationships between women, motherhood, cults, climate change kind of, California, sex workers, heat, blood, and glitter I think I ll just leave it at that In case it s not clear I highly recommend this book. The loneliness of a monster can only become sentimental after it is dead.Godshot by Chelsea Bieker is a tightrope walk of a novel, with each chapter you slowly step further from normality and the madness takes over No safety net can save you from falling for this intoxicating debut that is than just a coming of age story for one young girl, it s a journey into life, a breaking free of everything once known and trusted Written with prose that suffocates and beautiful unsettling scenes that bleed with a Kubrick like Midsommer vibe A hauntingly sunny disposition radiating at a funeral, this novel is sure to turn heads and stomachs all while breaking and piecing back together your heartSet to the backdrop of a climate changed, drought ridden central Californian valley where a religious cult is led by a crazed pastor named Vern who once coincidentally brought rain to the small town and ever since everyone believes him the higher power Enter Lacy May, a fourteen year old girl whose alcoholic failure of a mother is excommunicated from the town leaving her to be cared for by her absent grandmother that is too encapsulated with Vern and his preaching to bother noticing what s happening to her grandchild..One day Lacy and a group of young girls are all revealed to be pregnant, an act of god that Vern says will once again help bring the rain and feed the dust and ashes they once called home So enad and brainwashed the citizens chalk it up to gods will and think nothing , but the dark secrets are hidden in plain site..Struggling with the abandonment of her mother, the unwanted pregnancy and nut jobs that surround her, Lacy finds solace in a diviner who was once a friend of her mothers, as the story unfolds and the birthing day is swiftly approaching one eloquently disturbing scene after another brings a climax and final 50 pages that will blow you awayCults, sex workers, climate change, gothic religion, womanhood, motherhood, evil men and boys with god complexes, and perseverance are highlights of this astonishing work that shows you what could be a sad reality in the near future of our weather, the harshness of religion, and what truly happens when god goes wrong. This book is well written, and I liked the flawed and well rounded characters, but I m to the point where I cringe when I see a book described as feminist simply because of how often that translates to terrible things happen to women, and they might have a few victories and eventually get to show their strength, but mostly it s just a series of bad things happening to them over and over I m clearly in the minority here based on the other reviews, but it s like the Lifetime Movie paradox Lifetime was television for women, but you could almost guarantee that any time you turned it on, you d be seeing something awful happening to a woman I m burnt out on reading books like that. This is one of the most well written books I ve ever read, and also one of the hardest books I ve read Full review to come 4.5 stars I m not even sure what to say about this heart wrenching debut It s taken me days to collect my thoughts When Lacey May s alcoholic mother leaves her for a stranger who promises to make her a star, fourteen year old Lacey goes to live with her eccentric grandmother Cherry who is obsessed with dressing her collection of rodents Peaches, California is experiencing a drought, but fortunately Pastor Vern has guaranteed his congregation that he can produce rain as long as they follow his orders As the readers, we recognize the hallmarks of this cult as it becomes horrifyingly clear that Vern has his own agenda and his people are blind to the plan And this is only the beginning So much takes place as Bieker addresses multiple themes of empowerment, feminism, loss, motherhood, redemption, and forgiveness just to name a few The writing is poignant and there is both joy and pathos in the storyline It may be unlike anything you ve ever read before, but it will certainly keep you thinking deeply about concepts and people you care about Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC Whatever s happened to you can either make you beautiful, or it will ruin you forever You decide I mean, beautiful I mean, deep and changed Affected Wise When you see a woman like that, you know She s beautiful because of her undoing Beautiful because she rebirthed herself from ashes Chelsea Bieker s Godshot is a dynamite of a debut novel about the true grit of girlhood under the long arm of religion and patriarchy The story dawns in the drought stricken town of Peaches, California, a place where the sun has made a rusted wasteland of what was once verdant and bountiful it is no place to raise young girls This is the misfortune of 14 year old Lacey May, who, along with her alcoholic mother, decamps to Peaches at the advent of Pastor Vern a white man claiming to be Christ s reincarnate who turned infidels into believers after summoning rain from the sky Hellbent on driving out the evils of the decaying city by way of unthinkable practices from cola baptisms to god glitter sermons Vern allots the young men and women of his cult different assignments, one that banishes her mother into exile, another leaves Lacey May with a child of incest Cast into such motherlessness, our plucky heroine must discern the contradictions of the church on her own before another of Vern s prophecies come to pass Just when the light begins to pierce the darkness that has overtaken Peaches when she finds refuge among phone sex operators witches and other outcasts, life tasks Lacey with one last assignment to abandon the girl she was before to become the mother she needs to be.While feminism motifs are at the front of this story, I deeply respected Bieker s unflinching approach to using her heroine s journey to undermine the duplicitous complex of straight white men, all of whom are exposed as abusers of power i.e., cult leaders, pedophiles, rapists, etc , to inform an even larger concept on how much of a menace they really can be to a society And who better than Bieker to evoke such a terrifying yet touching take on the coming of age cult narrative The brooding darkness and feminist energy from which she draws to bring this nightmare to life made the story feel eerily dystopian, and I savored every page of it Bieker writes with a stroke of fever and ferocity I have yet to read in a debut in a long time, which is why Godshot will be one of the most flaming hot forays you ll read next year Thanks, Catapult, for sending me Bieker s debut novel in exchange for an honest review If you liked my review, feel free to follow me parisperusing on Instagram. This is a perfect novel From my blurb on the cover, which I mean with my full heart 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 GET ON IT.