Mothers, Daughters and Cults in Fiction

Chelsea Bieker's Godshot is the story of Lacey May, a girl in a drought-stricken town under the sway of an unhinged religious leader named Vern. After her mother is cast out and leaves town, Lacey May is selected to be part of the "Bible Study Girls," who Vern has particularly nefarious plans for. Lacey May goes on a desperate quest for her mother, aided by the phone sex operators on the edge of town. In poetic language, Bieker is terrific at creating a world so parched that believers are baptized in soda, and so claustrophobic that the predations of Vern and his followers seem to have their own logic. If you liked Godshot, here are other titles about mothers, daughters and cults.

Amaranth is fleeing a polygamous cult with her two eponymous daughters in Peggy Riley's Amity & Sorrow. After Amaranth crashes her car in the Oklahoma panhandle and takes shelter with a kindly farmer, the book flashes back and forth to life in the compound. This book is a spare, compelling look at sexual abuse and what a mother will do for her daughters.

In Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey, a small town believes it's always 1985. Young Pony is willing to accept this until her mom leaves the village, a possible first. Dey creates a singular voice in addition to riveting characters and an unconventional plot centered around the search for Pony's mother.

Glory abandoned her two daughters at a fire station when they were small for a promise of love and protection. Now, the older of the daughters, Ruby, has her driver's license and tracks down Glory, who is captive in a house with other women. With Ruby's appearance, Glory decides to make a run for it with Ruby's half-sister. Alternating views from less-than-reliable narrators and a corkscrew plot make Rosalind Noonan's The Sisters a page-turner.

Fred D'Aguiar provides insight into the cult member psyche in his novel of the Jonestown massacre, Children of Paradise. Ten-year-old Trina and her mother, Joyce, slowly realize where the church's sojourn in Guyana is headed, and make plans to escape. That said, the most intriguing character may be Adam, the gorilla, who Trina includes in her plans for rescue in this highly atmospheric novel.

Have more novels of mothers and daughters in extreme religious conditions? Tell us in the comments.