Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Library Audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: religious trauma, misogyny, dead parent (mother), dead dog, attempted sexual assault, suicide (mentioned), vomiting, gore
Extasia takes place in a post apocalypse where supposedly the last bastion of humanity is a village called Haven, run by patriarchal fundamentalists who believe that a woman’s role is to be a pure baby maker. The main character, whose saint name is Amity, has wanted nothing more than to be a saint, especially after her mother was ousted from the village. But she catches two other girls wandering off to a coven of literal witches, and suddenly, she has an idea to put an end to the increasingly mysterious and gory deaths of the men in Haven once and for all.
The magic is very real and the cult seems omnipotent, this book is a little less The VVitch and little more like The Village, but definitely in conversation with works like The Grace Year by Kim Liggett.
To start, Amity is deeply unlikeable, which makes sense. She’s been steeped in patriarchal misogyny her entire life and that’s reflected in her views and interactions at the beginning of the book. Menstruation is something to be feared as it affects her saint status. She berates her sister for masturbating and is terrified watching two other girls kiss like “husband and wife.” It’s clear the Legrand has done research into the psychology of a cult member and it shows on the page.
The discussion of gender in this novel is very binary, but because the rules are localized to this story, it worked for me. Especially given the primary context of a cult with strict gender roles to begin with, and whose origins do get explained in the end. If the vilification of women’s agency under the cloak of Christianity like something out of The Scarlet Letter makes you uncomfortable, this will not be an enjoyable read.
But much like in Legrand’s other YA horror, Sawkill Girls, there is a tenderness and love among the cast that includes romance, but elements of found family. Edges are thorny, there are no easy answers. Some actions take place fueled by intense emotion, and the presentation of the literal magic are dreamy and nightmarish in equal measure.
There is no shortage of blood and gore, and I really enjoyed how Legrand explores forgiveness, accountability, revenge, and justice. I’m going to cipher discussions around the ending, but for every horrible thing that had been done to the girls, there is justifiable anger. In terms of character development, Amity definitely gets deprogrammed through her interactions with the coven, even though the motives are not at all pure and stand in direct opposition of all her values in a variety of fronts.
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