Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
on October 8, 2019
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, iTunes
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.
Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, 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 their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their 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.
It’s hard to pin down the time frame of The Grace Year in comparison to our current day. The world is a historical sort of dystopia. The world is a creepy one where men control the move of young women from girls to adult at age 16, with a year in a wilderness retreat to survive in any way they can.
Tierney seems to me a bit smarter and more independent in thought than most her age. She isn’t sure she likes the traditional choices for women, and really who would? She is much more knowledgeable about science and medicine, as her father is a doctor. I like her strength and passion.
Without giving too much in spoilers, the “grace year” in the wilderness retreat is really more of a survival feat allowing men to leave them abused and submissive for whatever is their next phase in life. The women have no choice as to whether they are married or put into work crews. Men choose who they want for wives and the rest end up in work crews of some sort.
Tierney experiences much growth during her year, but it is hard won. She learns to apply the knowledge she has, to help all their survival. She develops what is a bit like political skill to work with the other girls. Tierney comes to recognize the great gifts of her family and appreciate them. She becomes grateful for all kindness and life.
The trials the girls face are brutal and many of the events are triggering. The poachers / guards are just another group being used by the upper class men. It seems fitting in the world of “old white men” / “the old boy’s club” to have a story focusing on women with their intelligence and strength and very human flaws.