By Cynthia Bujnicki
The girls are told they have the power to make men bend to their wishes. Now every year, when the girls turn sixteen they are sent out into the wild to rid themselves of their magic before they come home. For Tierney the dangers aren’t in the wild, but all around her as something takes hold of the girls, showing Tierney just how dangerous she and her fellow women can be.
Published by Wednesday Books, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is a startling complex novel that looks at the relationship between women and just how dangerous they can be when put into a box, stripped of their voice.
A provocative novel about young women being sent into the woods to release their power, the power the men claim over them. It is a tragic and empowering novel all at once because the novel focuses on the power these women have, or rather do not have and the voices they inside them.
History has proven that men like to base their weaknesses on women. This novel capitalizes on that idea in a setting like that of the Salem Witch Trials. However, instead of condemning a woman to death for their “magic,” although that does happen, here they send them off at sixteen to fend for themselves in the world and rid themselves of their so-called magic. Living alone in the wild gives the girls a chance to release any frustrations they have because, after this, their lives become nothing more than glorified prisons. The young women in this novel live in a society reminiscent of that in The Handmaid’s Tale, one where they are only valuable if they have children and become the voiceless wives they were meant to be, women with no thoughts of their own. That is what is so provocative about this novel because it is relevant to today. However, for Tierney, she fights and goes against the notion. Tierney does not believe in the magic she is a girl of science and fact, and that is what makes her stand out as a character. As a character, Tierney is both fierce and willful, but the part that resonates with the reader is how she pulls herself out when she falters. In these moments, when she thinks of breaking and conforming to the social norm bred out of a culture of misogyny and sexism, the reader sees the strength she has as a female character to fight against it.
That is what makes this novel so compelling the fact that these girls are put into a box and yet, even those who do conform, want nothing more than to escape the boxes. These girls want to express their frustrations, their anger at the world and share their opinions and ideas to make the world a better place. Ultimately, all these girls want to strive for is a world of equality, a world where they do not have to fear the men persecuting them.
As a story, it is compelling and thoughtful. The rising tension keeps the reader rooted to the story, and the story itself, the magic aspect, it keeps the reader guessing as to whether this “magic” is real or just a powerplay used to keep the women subservient. It leaves room for so much discussion and so much thought-provoking nature. It has great twists and turns, as well as incredible character development. Ultimately the tension in the novel and the gripping nature following the brutality of these girls who are so forced to fit into this little box and still live and die every day, much like Schrodinger’s cat, brings a resounding message to the story. (★★★★☆)