A fantastic, assured, and beautifully written debut novel. Godshot will make you feel the stickiness of the baptismal soda, feel the oppressive dry heat of its setting, and fear the creepiness of the cultish cast of characters. The prose recalls Flannery O'Connor (as noted in the book's jacket description) but also the gothic freakishness of Harry Crews's best work. Bieker uses those authors' paint brushes to illustrate her story, but does it with a deeply felt touch that is all her own.
Plus, I really hope this becomes a movie, maybe directed by Lynne Ramsay or even Harmony Korine. Recommended By Kevin S., Powells.com
When an eccentric evangelist arrives in the parched city of Peaches, California, with promises of rain and salvation, the locals are quick to form a flock. But soon one of the devout goes missing; the secret “assignments” Pastor Vern demands of his parishioners come into focus; and 14-year-old Lacey May discovers there are things more worrisome than drought. Godshot is a cancel-your-plans/forget-to-eat/fail-to-notice-it’s-nighttime-till-you-glance-out-the-window-and-the-sun’s-gone-down kind of book. A fervent, layered debut that made me thirsty for whatever else Chelsea Bieker has in store. Recommended By Tove H., Powells.com
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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.
"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
"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
"[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
"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
"[Godshot] 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
"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." Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light
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.