Godshot by Chelsea Bieker was truly a remarkable read that took me on a roller coaster ride of so many different thoughts and emotions. This unnerving debut novel paints a tragic, yet gripping picture of girlhood, mother loss, cults, religious extremities, resilience, trauma, sexual violence, desperation, belonging, alcoholism, and much more, leaving the reader with so much to chew on.
Godshot is based in the drought-stricken town of Peaches, California, where its citizens have turned to a cult leader named Pastor Vern for guidance and assurance that their raisin farms will return to the agricultural paradise that they used to be. According to Vern, the answers to their prayers lie within the special, secret assignments that are carried out by a select chosen few. Lacey May has seen Pastor Vern bring rain to the town before, so she has no reason not to trust his intentions this time around. That is, until her entire world is quickly turned upside down. At fourteen years old, Lacey May is so excited to finally get her first period, indicating that she is now ready for her special assignment. Shortly after, her mother is banished from the church for her sins and abandons Lacey May by running off with a man she hardly knows. Now under the guardianship of her grandmother, Lacey May begins to piece together the horrifying details of Pastor Vern’s plan and decides to go search for her mom and bring her home with the help of a woman who may know her whereabouts.
“I imagined her floating above our beloved town of Peaches, dropping God glitter over us like an angel, summoning the rain to cure our droughted fields. I imagined all these things with a burn of jealousy, for I had not received my woman’s blessing yet, the rush of blood between my legs that would signify me as useful. I’d just turned fourteen but was still a board-chested child in the eyes of God and Pastor Vern, and so I prayed day and night for the blood to come to me in a river, to flood the bed I shared with my mother. Then I would be ready. I could have an assignment too.”– Lacey May, Godshot
Godshot is full of many larger-than-life characters that you’ll either love or hate for all the right reasons. Lacey May is incredibly strong, brave, heroic, loyal, forgiving, naive and good hearted. I loved being able to watch how much her character grew up over the course of the story and was amazed at how forgiving and loving she remained despite everything she went through with her mom, Vern, Lyle and Cherry. Lacey May’s mom is a very complex character who suffers from alcoholism and incredibly low self esteem, continuously dating terrible men that verbally and physically abuse her and her daughter. This abusive cycle eventually leads Lacey May’s mom to be banished from Vern’s church, abandoning her daughter in the process. The majority of the book is centered around Lacey May trying to find her mom and bring her “home”, and the aching loss that she feels as she slowly comes to terms that her mom may never be a part of her life again. One of my favorite characters in the book was Daisy, a single mother to Florin who ran a small business as a phone sex operator. She became an amazing mother-figure to Lacey May, taking her under her wing and giving her the type of love, protection and guidance that she had so desperately craved to receive from her own mother.
Bieker’s storytelling is impeccable, fully immersing the reader inside Lacey May’s world and providing a glimpse into a seemingly dystopian society that reminded me a lot of Gilead and The Handmaid’s Tale. I personally have a lot of mixed feelings about religion and tend to feel uncomfortable by the subject matter, so while this book was difficult at times for me to read, I loved Bieker’s ability to take such a jarring subject matter and make it comical, frustrating, heart wrenching and even exciting.
“Vern breezed to the front, an impatient energy about him. He wrung his hands and kept glancing toward the main door. “Girls! Your stomachs are growing and growing! Praise be to the one who created us. In your wombs are church babies, of course. Future leaders of our army. Miracles in human form, the greatest offering we can turn over to God. Only then he will bless us with…” “Rain,” we all said together.”– Godshot
There is SO much that can be discussed about this book, which honestly made this a challenging review for me to write because I absolutely don’t want to give too much away. Overall, this book was beautifully written with many great messages to take away from it. If you are a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, I would be willing to bet that you will love this book too.
BEER RECOMMENDATION: Godshot is best paired with Even More Jesus by Evil Twin Brewing and Two Roads Brewing Company. Even More Jesus is an imperial stout, clocking in at 12% ABV. This sweet, thick and boozy fudge-like stout is pitch black in color with a mocha brown head and boasts with notes of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits and burnt brown sugar 🍻