Cover Image: The Women Could Fly

The Women Could Fly

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Member Reviews

In an alternate America, women must be tested as witches or married to men before they turn 30. Registered witches are tightly controlled by the government. The protagonist's mother disappears when her child is young, and when Josephine, now 28 and needing to decide what to do about registering, testing, and marriage, is given instructions in her mother's will, she embarks on a trip to find out where her mother went, and why. The magical realism of the novel works well, and the alternate US is deftly drawn and relevant. While some of the tropes of speculative fiction--like time passing in different ways in different places--is a bit common and used as a convenience for the plot--aren't always original, they are often used in fresh ways. The title is a bit awkward, but I understand it comes out of traditional storytelling practices.
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I really enjoyed Giddings' world. The social and political of being a witch was perfectly juxtaposed on an alternate reality of our reality. So much of the restrictions or policing done on witches was enragingly reminiscent of roles and expectations placed on women in our every day lives. Unraveling the nuances and history of her alternate reality was a treat. I didn't feel too connected to the MC, and didn't understand her choices. However, I did enjoy the story and worldbuilding.
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I loved the premise of this book, but this isn't at all what I thought it would be and what it is isn't working. This is barely magical realism. The "magic" is summed up as witches where witches are literally all people in marginalized groups: people of color, women, alphabet mafia, literally anyone who isn't cis white and male is at risk of being named a witch to the point that they have to register at 28 years old if they aren't attached to a cis white man. This sort of "lumping" of people can work, but here it comes off lazy and convenient. Gone is the nuance of belonging to one, two, or more marginalized groups and instead everyone is simply scared of being burned as a witch. I'm not sure how to put into words that this should have either just left it to all women could be accused of witchcraft or just made this a modern McCarthyism  where neighbors could accuse neighbors of witchcraft rather than communism. As it is now, it's The Handmaid's tale with "witch" replacing "undesirable." The drama with the mother is actually interesting, but takes a back seat to the....story? This seems very much like a pass at literary fiction but it misses the mark in my book and is instead what I would call a good effort, but not a win. 

**Thank you NetGalley and Amistad for the eARC**
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"The Women Could Fly" follows a young woman grieving a mother who disappeared years before in a dystopian, misogynistic society. Witches are real, here, and are the subject of a great deal of investigation and grief. Josephine has had to grow up black and motherless, scrutinized as a potential witch in the making most of her life. When her mother's will is read, Josephine embarks on a mission to complete her mother's last wishes, setting in motion revelations that will change her life forever. 

I'd read and loved Megan Giddings previous work, "Lakewood", and this one is just as beautifully written while being even more obtuse. "The Women Could Fly" probably works best as a prose poem and extended metaphor for the myriad ways that women are controlled in a society that hates them. The worldbuilding is sparse, and I had a lot of trouble envisioning just what and how this culture had formed... while nodding my head yes along to most of it. While this is not a plot-heavy book, it's a gorgeous sketch of a grieving woman on the cusp of real adulthood, trying to determine what truly matters to her. Given its own slow, meandering tendencies, this one will have real admirers and real detractors. While I'm not sure I "got" all of "The Women Could Fly", I will happily continue to read anything Giddings puts out. She's the real deal.
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The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings is both a great piece of speculative fiction and a wealth of social commentary on our real world.

Strictly as a dystopian work of fiction the style flowed well with transitions back in time usually being handled well. For some of the impact, on both the protagonist and the reader, to be effective some shifts were more subtle but just long enough for the effect to be created. An active engaged reader shouldn't have any trouble with them. I also thought Giddings walked that fine line very well between making the social commentary intrusive or making it too subtle so that it is missed. To the extent that commentary was made it fit into the narrative of the story, knowledge being passed between characters for example, so that the reader doesn't feel like one section moves the story along while another makes some larger point.

So many of today's social problems are addressed here (though admittedly they have been our problems for centuries) and are done so in a way that illustrates the fact that these various systems of oppression are not separate, they are coordinated aspects of the same system, the interlocking (sub)systems of oppression. Because I read to learn and broaden my understanding of my world as well as the fictional world. this next comment is a guess. I think even those who "just want the story" (they probably want athletes to just "shut up and play" but that is a different debate) can enjoy the story without consciously broadening their world view. Not sure why one would want to, but the writing and the story are strong enough to allow it.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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First, thank to NetGalley for the free eARC!
well done; the way their society has outlawed and hates witchcraft and magic is a mirror to how our society glamorizes sex and drugs while outlawing them— and even more, in the current climate, it just kept making me think of reproductive rights and the fears that come with the likely abolishment of Roe and its progeny. 

It asks some important questions— how can you truly know you love someone if you need them in order to be safe? Whether it’s your father or husband, in the world of this book, women are essentially wards. More autonomous than children, yes, but still not free. The nature of freedom— if you have to isolate from society to be free are you? If you have to give up 90% of the life you’ve known? Which safety is better— the one of removal, or the one of ownership?

The book also tackles the complicated relationship between the protagonist and her flawed and very human mother. At what point is acting in your own best interest not ok? How can a mother abandon her child? And how can the child be ok with it? 

All in all, it’s very well written and has a great protagonist. I loved the whole experience. It was a mix of a cozy hug and a panic attack and it was great.
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I thought it would like this one more than I did, especially with the comparisons some made to Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler. Overall, it was decent, and we will be purchasing for the collection. I'm sure it will find readership.
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In a world where magic is real but any expression of it leads to death and persecution, do you choose to compromise your self and your dreams or to give up everything and everyone you've ever known and loved?. certainly imaginative & overall thought-provoking but the world-building and plot were all over the place.
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This was such a lovely book. I don't think it'll be for everyone- I think some might find it doesn't have enough plot- but it was dreamy and I loved floating through it. Giddings is such a gifted, atmospheric writer. I also feel like the themes and messages feel less "obvious" than her previous work, Lakewood. For those who really want to peel back some layers, sit with some sentences, and be transported to a different world- this isn't to be missed.
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A stand-out work of literary science fiction, it is chilling in its portrayal of a society where witches are real and every woman is in danger of being accused of being one. The world is impeccably built and eerily familiar. The mother daughter relationship between Tiana and Jo is particularly moving.
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The idea of this book was a really good one but the delivery was lacking. I think the delivery or maybe the storyline was lacking a bit for me, it was a bit of back and forth. It almost felt like I was on a rollercoaster and then at each turn jerked into a different scene that didn't connect to the previous one. Thankfully when on a rollercoaster your cart stays on the tracks. :) Now please don’t get me wrong the conversations are valid throughout the story but I was a little exhausted moving from scene to scene.

Let me go a little deeper there were times I had to reread because I would be current in the story but then be transitioned to the past and I didn’t realize it right away. Some of the flashback transitions weren't fluid but it didn't take too much from the story or storyline. As a reader you have to stay focused mentally and possible keep notes as you read that is what helped me. One thing I did want from the author was more regarding Jo's parents. 

It was a good read and in exchange for my thoughtful and honest review Netgalley shared an Advanced Reader copy.
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I was hoping to enjoy this book a lot more than I did. I thought the writing style was a little unfocused, jumping from present-day to flashbacks very quickly, which made it confusing. Although I liked the premise and the points the author is trying to make about racism and misogyny, the writing style just didn't pull me in and keep me engaged.
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I really love the premise of this book but was a bit underwhelmed by the way the story progresses. However, I do think many people will love this story. It does a great job with intersections themes of blackness and womanhood.
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“But was it possible to ever love someone under duress?” In the dystopian novel, The Women Could Fly, a woman can find herself accused of witchcraft as if she were in 1690s Salem. The twist being that witches are also in fact, real. Women are also required to marry by the age of thirty or register to be monitored by the government. Josephine Thomas is approaching thirty and still grappling with the sudden disappearance of her mother in her youth. When her family finally decides to declare her dead, her mother’s will lists a request that will force Josephine to decide who she is. 

The novel is set in the present day and has parallels to modern society with emphasis on freedom, race, equality, and autonomy. The plot is intriguing and will draw comparisons to some of Margaret Atwood’s work. And just like when reading an Atwood piece, it is not a simple and easy read. The narrator shifts between the present and flashbacks without any transitions. I felt detached from the characters and didn’t feel overly drawn to the story itself. I do feel that this is a reflection on preference rather than at the fault of the novel or author. This novel will resonate to the right audience. 

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the ARC and the ability to leave an honest review.
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This will be a big hit with fans of The Handmaid's Tale. I really liked that Josephine was navigating this world as a queer Black woman because a lot of books like The Handmaid's Tale forget about how much harder it is for marginalized groups to navigate an already dystopian world. I felt like some of Josephine's motives for making some of her major decisions could have been explored a little more but it was a captivating world with a great main character. Giddings is really great at setting a scene.
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This is unlike any book I have ever read. A dystopian view of a man’s world where women need to register at the age of 28 if they are not married. The husband will become their “keeper” and thus the world will be a safer place, since women may be witches. An unmarried woman can be easily accused of witchcraft and have to be monitored by the government. I admit that I felt a little lost while reading this book and because of this I rate it at 3 stars. Otherwise, this is an interesting science fiction read, very well suited for a science fiction/fantasy reader. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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While the premise was intriguing and draws many parallels to racism, women’s bodily autonomy, and what it means to be free in general, the execution of the premise was lacking for me (although I know there will be people who LOVE this story and the way it’s told).

The story-telling style felt a bit meandering and unfocused: we’d be in a current day scene and the narrator would switch to a flashback with no transition so that it was hard to know what was in the past vs present. Or there would be a serious conversation happening and then we’d get a random few sentences about the ideas for a comedy sketch show between Jo and her best friend. I found it jarring and disjointed for the most part, although I know there are people who love the poignancy this kind of writing tries to instill. 

While we do spend some time with the secondary characters, they don’t feel as fleshed out as they should be: particularly Jo’s parent’s. Both deeply flawed, we don’t see a whole lot of them throughout the book. Jo’s friend and hook up/partner are featured more prominently (and flatteringly, for the most part), but I still found it hard to connect deeply with anyone.
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This book was amazing! 
This book pulled in and it kept me totally engaged! It grabbed me from the very first page and I had a hard time putting it down. 
First time reading a book by this author and I look forward to reading more by Megan.
I highly recommend this book!

Thank you for this eARC!
I will post to my Blog and platforms close to pub date.
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