Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Agnes at the End of the World - Kelly McWilliams

Summary: On Judgement Day, we shall shelter in the underground temple, with food enough for four hundred days.

Agnes loves her Red Creek home -- its quiet, sunny mornings, it's dusty roads, and its God.  There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town's strict laws.  What she doesn't k now is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.  

Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and beings to question what is and isn't a sin.  Her brother Ezekiel will die without the insulin she smuggles in once a month, even though medicine is forbidden.  Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister Beth a sinner for yearning for the world beyond Red Creek?

As the prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind.  But it isn't safe Outside, either:  A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate.  As Agnes ventures forth, she forms a mysterious connection with the Virus.  Will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?

This feminist, voice-driven, and genre-defying novel from Kelly McWilliams is a breathtaking story of survival and faith, perfect for fans of The Handmaid's Tale and Wilder Girls (Summary from book - Image from

My Review:  I suppose that I should start with the most important part of this review.  I didn't finish this book.  I tried to give it my all but eventually realized that I was forcing myself to read a book I had no desire to keep reading and had to remind myself that I don't do that anymore.  I read 264 pages out of 409.  Take or leave my review, as you will.

Agnes at the End of the World is told through the eyes of two teenage girls -- Agnes, and her younger sister Beth.  Independent of each other, each sister begins to question the teachings of the 'prophet' of Red Creek and each sister handles her faith crisis in a different way.  When a strange pandemic (timely, eh) begins to invade the community,  Agnes and Beth must decide whether they will follow their family into a bunker the 'prophet' claims will protect them from harm or make a desperate bid for freedom in an unknown world fraught with peril. Each chooses a separate path.

I approached this book with trepidation. I had read the above summary but wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Thankfully, this book does not glamorize cults or treat them kindly. The 'prophet' of Red Creek is portrayed as a sexist, power-crazed, conman who only cares about controlling his flock.  I have no problem, whatsoever, with this portrayal.  He's not a nice man.  However, some of the more mainstream concepts of Christianity, like revelation, prayer, scripture, temples, and prophecy, kind of end up lumped in with his teachings.  As a Christian myself, I appreciated that the author didn't seem to be trying to vilify all religion, but the juxtaposition of things I abhor alongside the distortion of things I hold sacred made me very uncomfortable and tarnished my experience with the book. Ultimately, I just wasn't enjoying myself and decided I'd much rather be reading...well, anything else.  So I did.  

My Rating:  2 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Those with a sincere belief in prophecy and revelation might want to steer clear, or at the very least, approach with caution.  Profanity is present throughout the book.  At least 25 instances in the part that I read.  I have no idea if there is any sex in the remainder of the book, but since Agnes was still hesitant to kiss anyone at page 264, I'm *guessing* you're all clear. 

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