I came to know about this book when I began following the author of this novel on Instagram. To be honest, I had never heard of Kim Liggett before until she liked one of the excerpts from my story that I posted on my page. I remember being so happy seeing someone who has made it in the publishing industry give the tiniest bit of acknowledgement to my work. I know it is not that significant, and it is the smallest gesture one can offer online, but it made my day. Out of gratitude, I followed her. That was when I came to know about this novel. I have been trying to get my hands on it for quite some time. But thanks to the lockdown and since I live in a small city in the hills, I was able to do so after waiting for an entire year.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is a story that revolves around Tierney James. She lives in an isolated village where girls are banished at sixteen to the northern forest to brave the wilderness and each other for an entire year. They must rid themselves of their dangerous magic before returning purified and ready to marry if they are lucky. It is forbidden to speak of the grace year. But even so, every girl knows that the coming year will change them if they survive it.
This is one of the best books that I have read this year. I was so absorbed by it that when I was finally done reading, I felt hollow inside. That hasn’t happened to me in quite a while. I haven’t come across a book like this before, and I loved the experience. I can tell that it is influenced by The Hand Maid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I haven’t read the book but I have watched a few episodes of the show).
I think the main reason why I loved this book was all thanks to the protagonist, Tierney James. She’s a sixteen-year-old girl with tomboyish characteristics that made me have nostalgic memories because when I was a teenager, I was exactly like her. The way she thought mirrored mine and her desires were no different from mine as well. At one point, I did think there was an inconsistency with her character. When we are first introduced to Tierney, we find out that she would work in the fields rather than marry someone because she values her freedom. However, later in the book, she starts thinking about getting married, settling down, and having children. Initially, I did not like that. I felt that it was very out of character for her to suddenly want those things. But after revisiting portions of the book and thinking about it, I understand her preference change. She is a sixteen-year-old girl who has been constrained by the society she lives in for her whole life. All of a sudden, she is given the freedom to do whatever she wants. Of course, her wants are going to change after experiencing things she has never been able to before.
Even though our thought process, behaviour, dreams are similar, I could not at any point in the story predict what was going to happen next. All my predictions ended up being wrong, and I loved it. The book’s unpredictability is another factor that works in its favour because it left me wanting more. I had this urge within me to find out what was going to happen next. Kim Liggett creates this foreboding and claustrophobic atmosphere which adds to the suspense of the book. I liked the fact that Kim toyed with the whole ‘whether it is magic or not’ because it does highlight the fact that we humans are ever ready to believe in the paranormal rather than using our brains to find out the truth and come up with conclusive answers. This book is set during a time when men believed that they are far more superior to their opposite sex. Not only does it show the oppression of women. But it also highlights the internalized misogyny that exists among us females. Two crucial things that still exists even in today’s society. The revelations at the end were unpredictable, and I was blindsided by the ending. I could not believe that the book ended in that manner and just to be sure, I read it three more times until I accepted it. When I finally did, I was torn.
This is a feminist book since it is centred on women banning together, forming a resistance against their oppressors. I liked the fact that it is not those extreme feminist books where the woman is always right regardless of the situation. Some male characters in this novel are deplorable people. But it also showcases that all men are not like that. Some of them are good human beings that work towards the betterment of humanity. I highly recommend that you give this book a read. My rating for this one is a solid 5.