In Peaches, California, a devastating drought has replaced lush greenery with dry, cracked earth. It's where 14-year-old Lacey May lives with her alcoholic mother at the beginning of Godshot, a stunning debut novel by Chelsea Bieker.
Out of desperation, the town's residents have turned to Pastor Vern, a charismatic religious zealot who says he can lead them away from sin and into a new world where their faith is rewarded with water. To do this, they're given different "assignments," and are warned never to speak of their assignments to anyone else.
Soon enough, Lacey May's mother is exiled from the community and runs off with the latest in a string of bad boyfriends. Abandoned and distraught, Lacey May moves in with her grandmother Cherry, a taxidermy-obsessed widow who also lives in Peaches, and is hopelessly devoted to Pastor Vern. As Lacey May continues to endure the increasingly appalling acts of men, she begins to uncover Pastor Vern’s shocking plan to bring fertility back to the land, she decides to find her mother, no matter what it takes.
Amidst the trauma and near-constant struggle, however, are hints of dark humor, like when church congregants are baptized using soda. "We filled an abandoned bathtub behind the church with liters of Check Mate Cola and one by one he held us under just long enough for the lungs to burn, for fearful desperation to set in, and we came up gasping and sticky, his face the first face we saw, a God to us...There was no wasting water, and so the soda would do. It was such a small sacrifice, to use soda instead of water, that I almost mistook it for a thrill."