Thursday, April 29, 2021

Godshot, by Chelsea Bieker: Just a Really Good Cult Novel

You know me, I love a good cult novel. And whoa boy, is Godshot, by Chelsea Bieker, a GOOD cult novel. But it's so much more, too. Taking place in a suburb of Fresno in California's drought-addled Central Valley in (I think?) about 2011, the story is about 14-year-old Lacey May, her mother Louise, and the bad-man preacher Vern who is hell bent on bringing rain, but only succeeds in destroying everyone's lives. 

Louise, who has ambitions of stardom, abandons her daughter and takes up with a man who tells her he'll make her famous — you know, the tale as old as time. But so Lacey May is left to live with her grandmother, and is stuck in the thrall of the two-bit preacher, Vern. Things go very badly for her from there. 

One of the main messages of the novel, which rings so incredibly true in this day and age, is how mediocre white men use whatever means necessary — religion, drugs and booze, promises of fame — to try to control women and keep them subservient. Indeed, is a cult-like religion really that different than the sex industry? They're both run by awful men who are addicted to their own fantasy of themselves and have mostly never drawn an honest breath in their lives. Lacey May imagines a meeting where these terrible men get together to compare notes: "Did they have a club where they traded these ideas with one another? I imagined a low-down shitty man meeting, all of them sitting in circle..." There are just way too many low-down shitty men out there, aren't there?

This is an immensely readable, quickly moving, "fiercely written" (as Entertainment Weekly said) coming-of-age-in-the-worst-possible-ways novel that's part John Steinbeck, part Mean Girls, and part Going Clear. I LOVED this book.

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