Cover image for Godshot
Physical Description:
336 p. ;

On Order

R.H. Stafford Library (Woodbury)2On Order
Stillwater Public Library1On Order



This "haunting debut" novel of a teenage girl in thrall to a magnetic preacher is "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) .

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

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. After Lacey's mother abandons her, she's left at the mercy of her widowed grandmother, Cherry, a devoted zealot under the spell of enigmatic cult leader Pastor Vern. Vern wears shiny capes, has convinced most of Peaches that he is God and can bring back the rain the area so desperately needs, and convinces a group of girls, among them Lacey, to become pregnant. When his plans for the babies become clear, Lacey's life is thrown in a harrowing direction and leads her to discover her own resilience and salvation. 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. (Apr.)

Kirkus Review

A young teen ensnared in a cult becomes obsessed with finding her exiled mother.Peaches is a small town near Fresno, in California's Central Valley. Once the raisin capital of the world, now Peaches is drought-ridden, with empty canals and residents in perpetual thirst. Large numbers of townspeople have turned to Pastor Vern, a Christ-like figure who promises that, if his congregants follow him and complete their "assignments," the rains will fall on Peaches again. (In the meantime, the churchgoers get baptized in cola.) Fourteen-year-old Lacey May, who lives with her alcoholic mother, doesn't know what her mother's assignment is; she only knows that she disappears somewhere unknown during the day and can't seem to stay out of trouble with Pastor Vern. When Lacey's mother is banished from the congregation and leaves town, Lacey must go live with her eccentric grandmother Cherry, an exuberant follower of the Gifts of the Spirit church. After Lacey is finally given a horrific assignment of her own, she is determined to find out where her mother has gone and what she knew about Pastor Vern's unsavory plans for the town of Peaches. 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 nave, 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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Lacy May has never known a world outside the suffocating heat of California's Central Valley. Her town, Peaches, is experiencing a drought of divine proportions, and the residents have subsequently turned to religious cult leader Verne for guidance. Verne has assignments for every member of his flock. Lacy May's mother, an unmarried alcoholic, is assigned to save employees of the local phone-sex company. Lacy May doesn't receive any assignment at all until her first period arrives. Verne's plan is to have all of Peaches' young menstruating girls impregnated, and with the collective birth of their babies, precipitation will arrive. Just as Verne's plan starts to hatch, Lacy May's mother disappears. Adding to this devastation, Lacy May is impregnated by her cousin and forced to live with her loopy, taxidermy-obsessed grandmother. She's determined to bring her mother back before her own baby arrives, a search that ultimately becomes a quest for liberation from the cult: two nearly impossible tasks in a place as isolated and dejected as Peaches. 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.--Courtney Eathorne Copyright 2020 Booklist