Title: Agnes at the End of the World
Author: Kelly McWilliams
Release date: June 9th, 2020
“The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.
Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.
Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of 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, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?”
Wow, when I requested an arc of this one to review, I didn’t expect I’d be reading a book about a pandemic during a pandemic of our own. I’m glad I read this as restrictions are starting to lift and things are more hopeful, because this would’ve been maybe a bit too eery to read as society began falling apart due to the virus as the events of this book mirror ours but show a much more drastic situation.
Anyway, this was incredibly impactful. I think my reading experience during our own pandemic made this feel even more powerful in its way. But the pandemic isn’t the core of the story, at its core is a story about faith and Agnes’ discovery of herself. As someone who isn’t religious and often offput by religious stories, I was unsure at first, but this turned into an amazing story.
The premise of a fundamentalist cult was really intriguing and really set the tone. This story explores faith vs. obedience and what they both mean and imply. Agnes is in a situation where she’s been brainwashed to believe that medicine and modern technology is sinful, but without it, her brother with Type 1 Diabetes wouldn’t survive. She has to make the choice between going against what she’s always believed to be true, or to risk everything to save her brother. As she connects with someone Outside the cult, we see how the world outside is going through their own battle of the pandemic.
The pacing for this felt great. I often kept telling myself I’d read one more chapter and put the book down, but it was so easy to be hooked and keep going. We also get dual POV between Agnes and her more rebellious sister, which added more dimension to the story and was done really well. The story makes it easy to be sympathetic for Agnes and her family, and truly believe she’ll do what’s right.
Something about the end me feels me leaving unsure, but I can’t place what it is. I’m not sure if it was a change of pace, or how things ended, but overall I really enjoyed the story. It leaves me with so many questions of what things are going to be like after.
*ARC received from the publisher for honest review*
Click here to order this book and help me receive a small commission!