Welcome back to the bookclub! In April, we read The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson for The You’ll Read Too Bookclub! If you wish to access all of the latest updates/information, click here. Spoilers ahead!
Quick Reminder: This month we are reading ‘Rules for Vanishing’ by Kate Alice Marshall.
Today I’m going to discuss the book in the same way I normally do the IGTV videos. You can find the IGTV video for this talk and others on my bookclub Instagram page. I’ll give a quick plot summary plus my overall star/scare-factor ratings. Then I will share the discussion topics and trivia questions. Please include all of your answers and opinions down below. I want to know exactly what you thought. I’ll also leave the answers to the trivia questions at the very bottom of the post, so if you wish to guess without being spoiled, do not scroll to the end until you’re ready. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING by ALEXIS HENDERSON – APRIL 2021
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
OVERALL STAR RATING
I gave this a rating of 3/5 stars. It was a bit of a roller coaster reading experience. I loved the beginning, was bored and confused by the middle and captivated by the end. I wanted more but I also felt the author was trying to do too much. The plot needed more direction. It definitely felt like a debut novel. However, I did appreciate the dark and twisted setting. I was invested in the story, the characters and feminist undertones. It gave me plenty of Handmaid’s Tale vibes. Overall, I believe it is an excellent book to discuss with a group.
OVERALL SCARE-FACTOR RATING
I gave this book a scare-factor rating of 2/5 stars. It felt more like a fantasy novel with added elements of horror. The story disturbed me rather than scared me. The way the girls were treated made my skin crawl. I also thought Immanuelle’s first sighting of the witches in the woods was really creepy.
1.) In what ways is this a feminist novel?
As I mentioned above, this book gave me Handmaid’s Tale vibes. The Prophet and Church seek to oppress, enslave and abuse women in multiple ways. They are expected to devote their lives to the men that rule them with no real freedom in speech, thought or action. Girls chosen by the Prophet are wedded and bedded at a very young age and treated as property. If they are suspected of witchcraft, they are burned. Immanuelle and her mother are prime examples of heroines seeking to destroy the system and liberate their gender from the patriarch.
2.) Would you have shown the Prophet mercy? Why/why not?
I would not have ended the Prophet’s life as his terminal illness numbered his days anyway. However, I would’ve cut off a certain appendage just to make him suffer for his disgusting acts of sexual and physical abuse. Do you blame me?
3.) What is the significance of the cutting ceremony?
The Prophet carves his sigil on his new bride’s forehead; claiming her as his own. It is symbolic in the sense that once the ceremony is complete, the woman is no longer her own person. She is the property of her husband and belongs to him in every way possible. It is barbaric and disgusting but a powerful depiction of the patriarchy’s hold over women.
4.) In what ways was Immanuelle similar to her mother?
Immanuelle is brave and determined like her mother. They both are called to by witches and possess powers. They also both undertake forbidden romantic relationships that anger the Prophet. We only learn about Immanuelle’s mother through her journal and accounts from other characters. However, it is easy to discern that her and her daughter are leaders; hellbent on destroying the system that oppresses/oppressed them.
5.) Who did you think carried more evil? The Church or the Darkwood witches?
I believe they are equally evil in different ways. The Church is a cruel, unforgiving system that targets the female sex without mercy but the Darkwood witches bestow plagues that sicken and kill the population as a whole; including the innocent. They are a force set on revenge without sympathy for who is harmed in the process.
Easy: What are the order and names of the four plagues?
Medium: What are the names of the four witches?
Hard: What was the name of the first Prophet?
I hope you enjoyed the book club discussion in this post and on Instagram. As mentioned above, share all of your thoughts in the comments below! If you have any feedback/suggestions to improve the bookclub, please let me know. I look forward to talking to you all next month! Thanks for reading!
Peace & Love xoxo
TRIVIA ANSWERS: Easy: Blood, Blight, Darkness and Slaughter. Medium: Lilith, Delilah, Mercy and Jael. Hard: David Ford.