Review of Godshot by Chelsea Bieker
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
I had a tough time with the implausible details but appreciated the strong female characters and the cobbled-together family of sorts that seems destined to succeed.
The premise of Chelsea Baker's Godshot hooked me: a California cult, with followers desperate for even the most misguided hope and leadership during a drought, a broken mother-daughter relationship, and elements of misogyny, battle for control of the self, and the strong female fighting spirit.
But each detail was more over the top than the last. I found this book difficult to read because so much of it felt implausible, yet the tone did not feel farcical or campy.
Gold glitter rains down on the congregation during the low-tech church services (no one looks up to see the leader's daughter doing this until the main protagonist peers up, late in the book); the bible is rewritten with the cult leader Vern's name in place of Jesus', the congregation is forbidden from securing food or supplies from neighboring towns, so that rather than drink water they only drink (and baptize in) soda. I don't doubt that people exhibit blind faith and are willing to go to extremes, and that this is especially possible during times of desperation, but the presentation of each element of Vern's rule and followers and community made them feel distracting and unlikely.
On the side there are the various sinister yet cartoonlike quirks of the dangerously faulted grandmother Cherry regarding dressing up taxidermied animals, revolting personal hygiene jobs tasked to her granddaughter, and covering her bald head with jelly and soda.
For me, the strongest and most cohesive part of the story came toward the end, with a search and some resolution, strong female characters, and a cobbled-together family of sorts that seems destined to succeed.
Catapult and NetGalley provided me with an advance publication copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What did you think?
I can roll with outlandish details, and I love a quirky story. This one didn't ultimately work for me, though.
The blind devotion to a faith and a flawed faith leader reminds me somewhat of Amy Jo Burns's book Shiner.