The Grace Year
Author: Kim Liggett
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Raincoast Books
MAJOR MOVIE NEWS FOR THE GRACE YEAR
BUSTLE exclusively reveals the stunning cover and first look at THE GRACE YEAR!
THE GRACE YEAR was 2019 BookExpo Buzz Pick!
A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Optioned by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be a major motion picture!
“A visceral, darkly haunting fever dream of a novel and an absolute page-turner. Liggett’s deeply suspenseful book brilliantly explores the high cost of a misogynistic world that denies women power and does it with a heart-in-your-throat, action-driven story that’s equal parts horror-laden fairy tale, survival story, romance, and resistance manifesto. I couldn’t stop reading.” – Libba Bray, New York Times bestselling author
Survive the year.
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.
In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between. (Goodreads)
*I received an advance copy of this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.*
I didn’t fully know what to expect going into this story but oh man, that was even more of a wild ride than I had been anticipating!
As expected, The Grace Year is full of feminist undertones and themes. The society Tierney belongs to is vastly misogynistic and sexually repressive. Women are regarded as what feels like sub-human beings and often times physical property. Men claim grace year girls as wives just before they’re shipped off to their “camp” and there are even instances of women being executed for transgressions that definitely don’t warrant death…only for their husband to immediately acquire a younger girl in her stead. Imagine a world where a wife could be booted and traded in for a “newer model” like nothing more than an unwanted car or an old iPhone. In this type of set-up, sex and intimacy are seen as nothing more than a necessary evil in a lot of situations with adages relating to how it’s to be done (spoiler alert…it sounds incredibly dull) something young people grow up hearing and learning.
The little things in Tierney’s daily life are what resonated the most with me. The microaggressions she experiences from the men she grew up around now that she’s reached the age of her grace year like lingering/appraising gazes, inappropriate comments, etc. are things that we still experience daily at an alarming rate in 2019. They way the women of The Grace Year are forced to just endure these moments and have no outlet for the discomfort, rage, and fear these gestures create within them is terrifying.
Another very relevant theme in the novel is the pitting of women against one another in order to secure a better life for themselves. This is something women struggle with every day just on a more extreme level. The “shortage” of husbands, threats of being banished, killed, or sent to less-coveted work positions in lieu of having a home life, and the rhetoric of the grace year girls being a danger to good, married men is the perfect recipe to make women fear and loathe one another. They are set up to compete viciously and take all their rage and frustrations out on one another through all stages of life. This behaviour often happens in more subtle ways in our society and Kim Liggett has brought women vs. women culture to light in a much harder-to-miss fashion.
Woven throughout the problematic behaviour and terrifying reality of life for women in The Grace Year, there are moments of hope and badassery as well. As we’re all aware, change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s little chips at the foundation of bigger issues that lead to bigger jumps down the line.
While I found the story to be exciting and well-paced for most of the novel, the ending did feel a little off for me. There was a lot crammed into a short space and some things that I wish would have been developed a little more were over before they started. Some of the time-keeping throughout the story was a bit confusing in spots as well. There were a few big time jumps that disoriented me and at points I wasn’t really sure where in the grace year I was at or how we’d gotten there.
This was overall an “enjoyable” read. Though it feels wrong calling something that deals with these themes enjoyable but hopefully you know what I mean. There is a lot of commentary on very important, topical issues and I think could definitely spark a lot of much needed discussions.