I preordered Kim Liggett’s new novel The Grace Year as soon as I could, and was riveted the moment I had it in hand to devour. There is simply no other way to consume this book — heart in hand, fully devouring this tale of girlhood and womanhood. Liggett’s speculative fiction expertly weaves a world where women have no power or agency, save the magic they must be rid of in their sixteenth year, the grace year. It is a survival story, a modern fairy tale, a coming-of-age, a resistance manifesto, and a terrifying horror yarn all at the same time, deftly told and hauntingly realized. I could not put it down.
There are so many ways that women and girls tear each other apart and lift each other up by turns, and this novel explores those dynamics in interesting ways. What does power come to mean when you are entirely deprived of it? How do we define ourselves within the rhythms of family, society, friendships, and love? What does that mean for our self-hood? How can we push for meaningful change? All of these are questions I turned over in my mind as this story unfolded.
Besides a fascinating macro look at a society described by some as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies, I thoroughly appreciated Liggett’s attention to small details. The language of flowers in particular made for a beautiful leitmotif, further strengthening her world-building. Flowers make for a common language, but they also prove to be a perfect metaphor for the girls themselves. Fragile, beautiful, unique, prized, just as easily crushed as admired — the Grace Year girls and their story will haunt you long after Liggett’s last page.