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A mesmerizing debut novel set in northern Texas about two sisters who discover a dark secret about their father, the head pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that upends their lives and community—a coming-of-age story of family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception. Luke Nolan has led The Hope congregation for over a decade, while his wife and daught A mesmerizing debut novel set in northern Texas about two sisters who discover a dark secret about their father, the head pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that upends their lives and community—a coming-of-age story of family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception. Luke Nolan has led The Hope congregation for over a decade, while his wife and daughters patiently uphold what it means to live righteously. Made famous by a viral sermon on purity co-written with his eldest daughter, Abigail, Luke is the prototype of a modern preacher: tall, handsome, a spellbinding speaker. But his youngest daughter Caroline has started to notice the cracks in their comfortable life. She is certain that her perfect, pristine sister is about to marry the wrong man—and Caroline has slid into sin with a boy she’s known her entire life, wondering why God would care so much about her virginity anyway. When it comes to light, six weeks before Abigail’s wedding, that Luke has been having an affair with another woman, the entire Nolan family falls into a tailspin. Caroline seizes the opportunity to be alone with her sister. The two girls flee to the ranch they inherited from their maternal grandmother, far removed from the embarrassing drama of their parents and the prying eyes of the community. But with the date of Abigail’s wedding fast approaching, the sisters will have to make a hard decision about which familial bonds are worth protecting. An intimate coming-of-age story and a modern woman’s read, God Spare the Girls lays bare the rabid love of sisterhood and asks what we owe our communities, our families, and ourselves.


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A mesmerizing debut novel set in northern Texas about two sisters who discover a dark secret about their father, the head pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that upends their lives and community—a coming-of-age story of family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception. Luke Nolan has led The Hope congregation for over a decade, while his wife and daught A mesmerizing debut novel set in northern Texas about two sisters who discover a dark secret about their father, the head pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that upends their lives and community—a coming-of-age story of family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception. Luke Nolan has led The Hope congregation for over a decade, while his wife and daughters patiently uphold what it means to live righteously. Made famous by a viral sermon on purity co-written with his eldest daughter, Abigail, Luke is the prototype of a modern preacher: tall, handsome, a spellbinding speaker. But his youngest daughter Caroline has started to notice the cracks in their comfortable life. She is certain that her perfect, pristine sister is about to marry the wrong man—and Caroline has slid into sin with a boy she’s known her entire life, wondering why God would care so much about her virginity anyway. When it comes to light, six weeks before Abigail’s wedding, that Luke has been having an affair with another woman, the entire Nolan family falls into a tailspin. Caroline seizes the opportunity to be alone with her sister. The two girls flee to the ranch they inherited from their maternal grandmother, far removed from the embarrassing drama of their parents and the prying eyes of the community. But with the date of Abigail’s wedding fast approaching, the sisters will have to make a hard decision about which familial bonds are worth protecting. An intimate coming-of-age story and a modern woman’s read, God Spare the Girls lays bare the rabid love of sisterhood and asks what we owe our communities, our families, and ourselves.

30 review for God Spare the Girls

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    i wrote this lol

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I approached this book with a little trepidation, not because I thought it would be bad, but because I knew it could potentially hit close to home. And it did. After I read the first quarter I took a break for a few days and then came back to it when I was ready. While this is very specific, with one kind of experience in one kind of church, I suspect it'll ring true for many people who have left a conservative Christian faith. While the central conflict of the book is the discovery of an affair I approached this book with a little trepidation, not because I thought it would be bad, but because I knew it could potentially hit close to home. And it did. After I read the first quarter I took a break for a few days and then came back to it when I was ready. While this is very specific, with one kind of experience in one kind of church, I suspect it'll ring true for many people who have left a conservative Christian faith. While the central conflict of the book is the discovery of an affair by the pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that is not the central story and this is wise. No one grapples with their faith in a vacuum, and when you do it seems like everything around you takes on some kind of new meaning. Here the central story is of our protagonist Caroline and her sister Abigail, who are shaken by their father's sin and retreat to the family ranch to get some space. These are not sisters with a close relationship. Abigail is the model child, who helps write her father's sermons, who writes worship songs, who has always been the one out front. Caroline is the secondary player, lacking her sister's dazzle or ambition, but when the news strikes she's already in the middle of her own struggle. Caroline has been sneaking out with a boy, not one she cares all that much about, either. She feels lost, not understanding why she's done what she's done, anxious to leave home for UT instead of Texas Christian as her family wanted. Abigail is only a few weeks away from her wedding to a bland but godly man. The sisters are in very different places but the time they spend isolated on the ranch brings them together. The two sisters are so well drawn. I loved seeing how they came together and pulled apart, the different ways they reacted. Sometimes one sister would take the lead for her own set of reasons, and then the other. Even when they agree, they are not always coming at it from the same place, but the overlap helps them feel united and they start to understand each other in a way they never have before. There is no one way to grapple with a faith crisis or a family crisis, and when the two overlap it's even more complicated. For me, Caroline's journey rang very true to my own. The way she feels at the beginning of the book was exactly how I felt, though I didn't have one very big event that brought everything to a head the way she did. Abigail also felt very real, though I suspect for people who didn't grow up in this kind of conservative religion she will feel more foreign and some of her actions may be hard to believe, but I think McKinney does a good job of showing you a way in through the more accessible Caroline's understanding of her. While it wasn't the easiest read given the personal similarities, every detail felt just right. (Except maybe the "3rd biggest evangelical church in Texas," that is... REALLY big, bigger than how it's presented to us.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I was in the right mood for a coming-of-age story like this debut. As the back cover blurb states, it is an emotional journey into family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception. While it may not resonate with every reader, it struck close to home for me as it was very reminiscent of my own childhood (minus the dark secrets! lol). Two sisters, Abigail and Caroline, are the daughters of megachurch leader, Luke Nolan, who has led his Texas congregation for over a decade. His wi I was in the right mood for a coming-of-age story like this debut. As the back cover blurb states, it is an emotional journey into family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception. While it may not resonate with every reader, it struck close to home for me as it was very reminiscent of my own childhood (minus the dark secrets! lol). Two sisters, Abigail and Caroline, are the daughters of megachurch leader, Luke Nolan, who has led his Texas congregation for over a decade. His wife and daughters patiently uphold what it means to live righteously, with their lives being made an example to the church. Luke Nolan is the prototype Joel Osteen-type megachurch minister - tall, handsome, and a spellbinding speaker. His claim to fame is a now-viral sermon on purity, which incidentally was co-written with Abigail, the oldest daughter, who is engaged to be married to a young, "perfect," fellow church member. Youngest daughter, Caroline, however has started to notice the cracks in their perfect life. She is certain that her sister is about to marry the wrong man, and she herself has been "sliding into sin" with a boy she only marginally cares about - mainly because it's forbidden. The sisters are shocked though when right before Abigail's wedding, it comes to light that their father has been having an affair. Their lives immediately fall into a tailspin, and the sisters flee to a ranch they inherited from their grandmother, in order to remove themselves from the embarrassing drama of their parents and the prying eyes of the community. But with the date of Abigail's wedding fast approaching, and their parents pressuring them to come home, the sisters have to make a hard decision about which familial bonds are worth protecting. If there was one thing that I felt with every ounce of my being was how the sisters felt about their lives being on display and scrutinized by every church member and community do-gooder. That was my life growing up as a minister's daughter as well, and I hated it. I immediately connected with Caroline's character, as I behaved in the same manner she did - question everything, break the rules just to see what the hype was all about, and not feel badly for not living up to others' expectations. Abigail seemed to be all the things Caroline could not be, and I loved Caroline for that. I thought their relationship was an interesting contrast, and their journey of finding a path together to move forward and each seek their own happiness was moving. There were times when the sisters were at the ranch that the pace moved a bit slowly for me, but overall, the writing style was phenomenal and there were even a couple of twists that I wasn't expecting. I'm still unsure as to whether I was completely satisfied with the ending, but that is minor. I think what I truly enjoyed the most is that even though I follow a different path now when it comes to my views on God and religion, I still find positives in my upbringing and the foundations I had to build upon, and I thought McKinney nailed the balance of being appropriately critical but not overly disdainful of the subject. Overall, an impressive debut that has stuck with me even a couple of weeks after finishing it (which is rare!). I look forward to reading more McKinney books in the future. 4 stars!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    “The Bible promised a version of womanhood that was all sweetness and goodness. But Caroline wanted wet, sloppy kisses. She wanted to make quick retorts and harness the power of her body like the women she saw on TV. She didn’t want a prime-time sitcom life. She wanted cable. She wanted a parental advisory warning. Or at least she thought she did.” Man. This book just did something to me. It hurt my heart a little bit. I think it’s because I have so much in common with Kelsey McKinney - I also g “The Bible promised a version of womanhood that was all sweetness and goodness. But Caroline wanted wet, sloppy kisses. She wanted to make quick retorts and harness the power of her body like the women she saw on TV. She didn’t want a prime-time sitcom life. She wanted cable. She wanted a parental advisory warning. Or at least she thought she did.” Man. This book just did something to me. It hurt my heart a little bit. I think it’s because I have so much in common with Kelsey McKinney - I also grew up in the Texas evangelical culture. I also left. And learned and grew and evolved. My heart kept loving the Lord but my eyes were opened. I struggled (struggle??) with so many of the things Caroline and Abigail did in this book. The Blue Bell and Whataburger descriptions (yeah, I know what an orange and white striped bag means🤣) and the descriptions of the community in the church and the Texas country with its’ bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush…well those passages made this former Texan terribly homesick. Part of me feels like Kelsey could have done even more to question the toxic, harmful parts of the church the girls grew up in. But that’s just me being selfish. The book is perfect as is. It’s a quiet but eviscerating contemplation on grief and betrayal and anger and shame. It’s a beautiful portrait of the strength of sisterhood. It’s a complicated query of faith and megachurches. It’s the idea that you can love something but also despise and resent it deeply. This is one that will stick with me for a long time. I’m sure of that. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  5. 4 out of 5

    Niki Oneill

    This book was over 300 pages but not much happened. I really believe this could have been a great book had the author gone more into character building rather than over describing scenes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susie | Novel Visits

    More like 4.25 or even 4.5 stars! Review to follow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    God Spare the Girls is the story of two sisters who, after learning of their father’s infidelity, begin to question the foundation of all they were raised to believe and their perception of the father they love, who is also the pastor of their church. There really isn’t anything shocking in this story. It felt very true to life, showcasing people as they are, both as facades and as the reality underneath that shiny surface. It hurt my heart so many times because of this. I think the author did a God Spare the Girls is the story of two sisters who, after learning of their father’s infidelity, begin to question the foundation of all they were raised to believe and their perception of the father they love, who is also the pastor of their church. There really isn’t anything shocking in this story. It felt very true to life, showcasing people as they are, both as facades and as the reality underneath that shiny surface. It hurt my heart so many times because of this. I think the author did a fantastic job illustrating a powerful message while never telling the reader how they should think or feel. I particularly liked that the narrative continuously followed a very realistic path, never wrapping things up in fancy packaging or utilizing unnecessary dramatics. I felt curious about the author’s background as I read this. This is not Christian fiction, but McKinney did seem to have a firm grasp on theology, church politics, and Christian family life. While this can all come from research, so much of it felt like it was born from a more personal experience. Her ability to capture this tone so eloquently was impressive. God Spare the Girls is a solid, immersive debut and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s quiet literature that won’t speak to everyone in the same way, but even in its whispers, it has something very important to say. I am immensely grateful to William Morrow/Custom House for my review copy through NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Editing to add: I just read the author’s acknowledgments and “About the Author” blurb. They answered my questions about her background. 🙂

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    What a lovely, intimate book. God Spare the Girls is a fascinating window into Evangelical Texan life, and one can feel the author's complicated relationship with her own upbringing on every page. McKinney's character work really shines, and her prose rings true because it is obvious that she has been in this place, known these people, seen these conflicts play out. She's able to be critical while simultaneously holding obvious love in her heart not just for Texas, but for the people who populat What a lovely, intimate book. God Spare the Girls is a fascinating window into Evangelical Texan life, and one can feel the author's complicated relationship with her own upbringing on every page. McKinney's character work really shines, and her prose rings true because it is obvious that she has been in this place, known these people, seen these conflicts play out. She's able to be critical while simultaneously holding obvious love in her heart not just for Texas, but for the people who populate it, flaws and all. She works with a deft hand to bring her characters to life, letting the sadness and rage held under the mannered exteriors come through in actions, gestures, and the way characters phrase what they have to say. The book is gripping, though not because of a relentless plot. In truth, not that much *happens*, particularly in the book's second act, which stretches out like the long, hot, Texas summer days it describes before snapping back to a more rapid pace after one particularly ill-fated trip to a grocery store. Nonetheless, because this place feels so real and whole, the stresses and tensions the novel's central family is experiencing transfer easily to the reader. You want to know how it will all be resolved, and if the titular girls will be okay, and it very much keeps you turning the pages. McKinney doesn't have easy answers to those questions, but she draws the novel nonetheless to an ending that feels earned and satisfying, even if it's not the one the reader (or some of the characters) may have hoped for. Her interrogation of Christianity's inherent misogyny is unsparing, particularly in regard to a select few well-known bible stories, and while different characters make different choices in regard to their faith, none are incomprehensible or feel unearned. Touching, gripping, and frustrating in equal measure, God Spare the Girls is an excellent read an I recommend it with enthusiasm.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leslie - Shobizreads

    Wow. I read this book in 24 hours. What a debut novel! Set in Texas, this story focuses on sisters Abigail and Caroline Nolan. Their father, Luke Nolan, helped to usher in the “purity movement” in the evangelical world and is the pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in America. We enter the story a decade after he has achieved fame and grown his church to two locations and six services a week. He has also just been discovered to have been having an affair. While this is the backdrop Wow. I read this book in 24 hours. What a debut novel! Set in Texas, this story focuses on sisters Abigail and Caroline Nolan. Their father, Luke Nolan, helped to usher in the “purity movement” in the evangelical world and is the pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in America. We enter the story a decade after he has achieved fame and grown his church to two locations and six services a week. He has also just been discovered to have been having an affair. While this is the backdrop of the story, it’s not really about Luke Nolan and his never-ending commitment to image and perception-it’s about the role the women in his life play to this. His two daughters are seeing things in a whole new light including their mother and their ongoing role to their dad and the church. Having grown up in the Evangelical world during the height of the purity movement and working at a mega-church during a sex scandal that broke open all the themes of women in leadership in the church, image repair & maintenance and gender roles - this book hit close to home. The writing is phenomenal. I can’t wait for the author’s next book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    CJ Surbaugh

    This book is a damn delight. It blends the best kind of church gossip, subtle biblical exegesis, and the feeling of watching Friday Night Lights. About halfway through I sat up straight and said “oh NO” out loud because someone made such a clearly bad decision thinking it was good. We all know it was bad!! To be fair, I am the target audience for this book: a former youth group girl from North Texas (who later went to the godless liberal state university lmao) but I think this book will resonate This book is a damn delight. It blends the best kind of church gossip, subtle biblical exegesis, and the feeling of watching Friday Night Lights. About halfway through I sat up straight and said “oh NO” out loud because someone made such a clearly bad decision thinking it was good. We all know it was bad!! To be fair, I am the target audience for this book: a former youth group girl from North Texas (who later went to the godless liberal state university lmao) but I think this book will resonate with anyone who grew up in evangelicalism or anyone who has a confusing but deep love for their family.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    To preface, I did receive this book in a goodreads giveaway! This book falls somewhere between “slice of life” and “coming of age”, two genres that I really enjoy. The characters are all very realistic along with the family dynamics. There isn’t a clear resolution during the ending, but for once I’m okay with it. I feel like if everything was wrapped up neatly at the end it would feel wrong, considering the rest of the novel. My favorite part of this book was by far the scenery and settings. The To preface, I did receive this book in a goodreads giveaway! This book falls somewhere between “slice of life” and “coming of age”, two genres that I really enjoy. The characters are all very realistic along with the family dynamics. There isn’t a clear resolution during the ending, but for once I’m okay with it. I feel like if everything was wrapped up neatly at the end it would feel wrong, considering the rest of the novel. My favorite part of this book was by far the scenery and settings. There are some really beautiful descriptions of the setting, especially those involving the ranch. Worth the read for that alone!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hannah F

    I really enjoyed this book up until the very end when it just...ended. It didn't feel like the story concluded at all, instead the author just left all of her characters hanging. I can understand not wanting to end your book with everything fully resolved but the author just left it wide open, it honestly feels like she just got tired of writing and...stopped. Also, this is a minor critique but I don't think the author took enough time to really understand the Southern Baptist/Evangelical world I really enjoyed this book up until the very end when it just...ended. It didn't feel like the story concluded at all, instead the author just left all of her characters hanging. I can understand not wanting to end your book with everything fully resolved but the author just left it wide open, it honestly feels like she just got tired of writing and...stopped. Also, this is a minor critique but I don't think the author took enough time to really understand the Southern Baptist/Evangelical world she was trying to write about. The "sermons" are weird and unlike anything I've ever heard and she paints Southern Baptist as believing things that they just don't (at least not any Southern Baptists I know...and I'm married to a Southern Baptist pastor lol). But I found this to be a minor detail that didn't affect the overall story. I just wished she had done a little more to make her story feel complete.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erika B.

    Oh, this was good! Now listen. If you were or are close to (or part of) the Southern evangelical megachurch culture….it’s gonna hit cloooose to home. You might laugh or cringe or cry as you read about this entirely believable story taking place in an extremely familiar setting. But it’s good. I only wish there had been a little more resolution with any of the major storylines. But it was a good, slow, character and setting-driven book and definitely worth a read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Angela Randall

    Good book

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    After reading all the glowing reviews, I will probably come across as the Grinch for giving only 2 stars. Sorry Kelsey. I kept questioning the time frame in which it was written. Surely these kinds of churches do not exist in the 21st century but wait, people are texting and have mobile phones. How can this be? Was this meant to be a YA novel? A modern woman’s read? I think not. Setting my disbelief in a backwards misogynistic 1950s religion apparently thriving in 2020, I still found it difficul After reading all the glowing reviews, I will probably come across as the Grinch for giving only 2 stars. Sorry Kelsey. I kept questioning the time frame in which it was written. Surely these kinds of churches do not exist in the 21st century but wait, people are texting and have mobile phones. How can this be? Was this meant to be a YA novel? A modern woman’s read? I think not. Setting my disbelief in a backwards misogynistic 1950s religion apparently thriving in 2020, I still found it difficult to stick with the book. I re-read some of the reviews thinking the book must get better. For me, it did not. One of the teen-aged characters, Taylor, summed it up, “ It doesn’t seem like that big a deal.” I found it predictable. Of course the condom under the bed signaled Luke was having an affair. That’s not exactly an untold story to start with. Several subjects were opened then never revisited. Similes were overused and the Texas-isms were clumsy. I live in TX, BTW. I think only in Catholicism is suicide considered a sin and why have it in the book with no further exploration? I also have sisters and the relationship between Caro and Abby did not ring true to me. I found the fixation on what people, including the men, wore, was boring. Another reviewer mentioned the sloppy editing especially regarding pronouns. She told her they were having it. Huh? This definitely slowed my reading and I was in a hurry to finish the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A truly stunning debut. This is exactly the writing that I love - clear and concise writing that so easily absorbs the reader, plopping them right into the setting, with the characters, with very little work required from said reader. Writing that isn’t outlandish or ostentatious, but still contains passages so beautiful you reread them 3 or 4 times just to sit with them a bit longer. This novel is not a thriller by any means, but it reads like one in that you cannot stop turning the page.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Grace

    Kelsey is a friend of mine so I’m biased — but honestly if I didn’t love this book I wouldn’t rate it on goodreads. I love this book. It’s a beautiful portrait of sisters trying to understand one another and the world they live in right as it gets wrenched apart. The descriptions of the Texas sky alone made me homesick for a place I’ve only spent some time in. Anyone can relate to the crisis of faith at the center of the book no matter what religion (or lack thereof) you grew up with, since it i Kelsey is a friend of mine so I’m biased — but honestly if I didn’t love this book I wouldn’t rate it on goodreads. I love this book. It’s a beautiful portrait of sisters trying to understand one another and the world they live in right as it gets wrenched apart. The descriptions of the Texas sky alone made me homesick for a place I’ve only spent some time in. Anyone can relate to the crisis of faith at the center of the book no matter what religion (or lack thereof) you grew up with, since it is also a crisis of faith in family, friends, and the stories we tell about ourselves as we grow up. 100000 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Matthews

    Kelsey is a friend so I got to read this early, be jealous. Kelsey’s one of the best writers I know at a pure sentence-construction level and this is no exception. It’s also an exemplary novel in a neglected genre: love stories about siblings, and about the particular and specific intimacy that develops when they realize a parent has betrayed them. Particularly if you’re (like me) pretty foreign to the culture of modern evangelicalism, it’s an appropriately critical but not aloof or condescendin Kelsey is a friend so I got to read this early, be jealous. Kelsey’s one of the best writers I know at a pure sentence-construction level and this is no exception. It’s also an exemplary novel in a neglected genre: love stories about siblings, and about the particular and specific intimacy that develops when they realize a parent has betrayed them. Particularly if you’re (like me) pretty foreign to the culture of modern evangelicalism, it’s an appropriately critical but not aloof or condescending immersion. In conclusion and in summation Kelsey rulez and you should buy the book

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fran Burdsall

    The writing was good and the character development was good. The plot was good and it held together well enough - I finished it. My problem was with the evangelical Christian themes. There are reasons I no longer participate in a community based on group-think and an holier-than-thou facade. I was unsettled by the relationship between the two sisters. They were becoming friends and bonding when the ambition of the older sister eclipsed their progress and set the stage for her own agenda. Run Car The writing was good and the character development was good. The plot was good and it held together well enough - I finished it. My problem was with the evangelical Christian themes. There are reasons I no longer participate in a community based on group-think and an holier-than-thou facade. I was unsettled by the relationship between the two sisters. They were becoming friends and bonding when the ambition of the older sister eclipsed their progress and set the stage for her own agenda. Run Caroline, run.

  20. 5 out of 5

    ShanTil

    That afternoon, she let the bitterness course through her. It wasn't a curse, she decided. The bitterness was a blessing that would free her from this life. Well. This was an intense, emotional read for me. Not since The Incendiaries have I read fiction that explores the complexities of the Christian faith in such a nuanced, humane way. McKinney's debut plumbs the depths of the Texan evangelical experience, examining both the subculture and a prominent family's place in it through the eyes of That afternoon, she let the bitterness course through her. It wasn't a curse, she decided. The bitterness was a blessing that would free her from this life. Well. This was an intense, emotional read for me. Not since The Incendiaries have I read fiction that explores the complexities of the Christian faith in such a nuanced, humane way. McKinney's debut plumbs the depths of the Texan evangelical experience, examining both the subculture and a prominent family's place in it through the eyes of 18-year-old pastor's daughter Caroline. The central conflict may sound familiar if you keep up with that kind of thing- pastor behaves in an unholy fashion, church and family are thrown into turmoil, and in the end, a coin toss...accountability may or may not take a backseat to good appearances and present power structures. I was born and bred Southern Baptist, adhered to some version of evangelicalism up through my mid-20's, and lived in Texas for 10 years. When I say that McKinney gets it, she really gets it. My main complaint with modern media portrayals of Christianity is that they often come across as hokey or scary or weird. Believe me, I get where that comes from. There are plenty of extremists, and I was also an off-putting zealot for a while. But even in the midst of the necessary critiques woven into the story, there is sympathy and respect for the characters and their inner lives. This is especially evident in the portrayals of Caroline and her older, more devout sister Abigail as they navigate the wreckage of their father's selfish mistakes. I was rooting for them, frustrated by them, loving them. They were real and fleshed out, practically jumping off the page at me. Even if I hadn't been compelled to finish the book for the story it was telling, I would have stayed for the descriptions of Texas alone. (Bonus points for the Whataburger and Sonic references too!) They took me back to a tender place. When my own faith was diminishing, I found another kind of salvation in long drives on rural stretches of I-27 and aimless walks in the dry heat of High Plains summertime. I was grateful as a reader to know the sisters had this fierce landscape, along with each other and their grandmother's ranch, as refuges where they could process the difficulties encompassing them. The ending was ambiguous and true to life, and I won't give away any more than that. I'll eagerly await whatever McKinney decides to write next. 4.5/5 stars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Whoa! This is a powerful debut. This was an up til 2am because I must finish this story kindof book. God Spare The Girls is a tender coming of age about Caroline Nolan, the daughter of a mega-church pastor whose extramarital affair comes to light, and how not only his affair but his famous purity-culture sermons have affected his daughters lives. This book is about hypocrisy in the church. It's about toxic purity culture. It's about patriarchy. It's about the difference between actually being sor Whoa! This is a powerful debut. This was an up til 2am because I must finish this story kindof book. God Spare The Girls is a tender coming of age about Caroline Nolan, the daughter of a mega-church pastor whose extramarital affair comes to light, and how not only his affair but his famous purity-culture sermons have affected his daughters lives. This book is about hypocrisy in the church. It's about toxic purity culture. It's about patriarchy. It's about the difference between actually being sorry, and being sorry you got caught. But mostly, it's about a relationship between sisters during trying times. Caroline's father, Pastor Luke Nolan, gave me some serious Mark Driscoll vibes *insert song: I'm picking up really sketch vibes* and I hated every scene he was in. But I absolutely loved the relationship between Caroline and her sister Abigail, and how they bonded, fought, made mistakes, and ultimately fell back on each other during a challenging time in their life. This story hit me hard and then left me wanting more, asking "But, what now?" Caroline was a strong young female lead and I was rooting for her. She didn't always say or do the right thing, but who does? I was so proud of her strength and her honesty. Abigail deserved more than where her story took her, and I wanted to know if she veered off her current path in the future at all. But the choices these sisters made never once surprised me. This book is beautifully written, the characters are strongly developed, and the story packs a punch while also being just a slice of life. If you have deconstructed or pulled away from mainstream evangelicalism, and are critical of oft-hypocritical church leadership, this is a good read. If you grew up in the purity culture movement or a particularly strict church environment, this one might sting a little, but it's so so good. I will read all the things McKinney writes in the future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susan Ballard

    I love books that take place in states or towns where I have lived. God Spare the Girls is set right in my current backyard. McKinney writes a compelling story of two sisters, daughters of Luke Nolan, the pastor of Hope congregation, one of North Texas’ largest churches. Nolan has always preached on the virtues of living righteously, especially that of purity, and he expects nothing less from his family. Abigail, the eldest, is planning her wedding and is following the pure beliefs that she was r I love books that take place in states or towns where I have lived. God Spare the Girls is set right in my current backyard. McKinney writes a compelling story of two sisters, daughters of Luke Nolan, the pastor of Hope congregation, one of North Texas’ largest churches. Nolan has always preached on the virtues of living righteously, especially that of purity, and he expects nothing less from his family. Abigail, the eldest, is planning her wedding and is following the pure beliefs that she was raised on, while Caroline can’t wait to lose her virginity. Weeks before Abigail's wedding, a shocking revelation is revealed about their father. It will cause the girls to question their family’s bonds and the very religion they put their trust in. The two sisters flee to the family’s ranch alone, where they finally have time to walk and talk about life as the Texas sunsets light the sky on fire. Although religion plays a large part in this book, I see it more as a family drama and coming-of-age story. 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐒𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐆𝐢𝐫𝐥𝐬 is a sharp reminder that 𝙛𝙖𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙞𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙞𝙤𝙣, for man is fallible and flawed. The sisters saw that in their father and within themselves, but they found something more important to hold onto. Thank you to @williammorrowbooks for this gifted copy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    Kelsey McKinney has written a book that will stick with me for a very long time. "God Spare the Girls" is set in a conservative, Evangelical community in Texas. Luke Nolan is the senior pastor at the local megachurch, and has recently admitted to having an affair. His two daughters, Abigail and Caroline, are shaken and retreat to their late Grandmother's ranch to isolate themselves from the brewing scandal. They soon realize, much to their dismay, that their church community has no intention of Kelsey McKinney has written a book that will stick with me for a very long time. "God Spare the Girls" is set in a conservative, Evangelical community in Texas. Luke Nolan is the senior pastor at the local megachurch, and has recently admitted to having an affair. His two daughters, Abigail and Caroline, are shaken and retreat to their late Grandmother's ranch to isolate themselves from the brewing scandal. They soon realize, much to their dismay, that their church community has no intention of holding their father accountable, challenging their trust in the institution they have been a part of since childhood. McKinney perfectly captures the Evangelical jargon, rituals, and belief systems of the South. At times, I felt like I was reading a non-fiction title. This book feels so timely as churches are confronted with their own history of abuse and scandal in light of the Me Too movement. Even though the setting feels so relevant and accurate, it is the relationship between the two sisters that made this a 5-star read for me. I felt so empathetic and drawn towards Abigail and Caroline as they navigate their relationship through change. The tug and pull of evolving beliefs, and its ripple effect through the family, was masterfully written.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I struggled to put down--like, I stayed up past 2 a.m. finishing it. A beautiful, tender coming-of-age story set in small town Texas that feels so familiar to me. Even though I didn’t grow up as a member of an evangelical church, the reach of evangelicalism permeated our small town and community. Skillfully crafted with great writing and character development. Highly recommend. [Full disclosure: I know Kelsey from our time working together at the This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I struggled to put down--like, I stayed up past 2 a.m. finishing it. A beautiful, tender coming-of-age story set in small town Texas that feels so familiar to me. Even though I didn’t grow up as a member of an evangelical church, the reach of evangelicalism permeated our small town and community. Skillfully crafted with great writing and character development. Highly recommend. [Full disclosure: I know Kelsey from our time working together at the Ransom Center and as a fellow Terry Scholar, and I couldn’t be prouder of her for writing such an incredible debut novel.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    4 stars--I really liked it. This is a very quiet coming-of-age novel. if you're looking for action, this isn't the book for you, but if you're interested in two young women questioning their familial faith, give this a try. I'm not sure what McKinney's religious background is, but she's very careful to take a balanced look at evangelicalism, which is admirable. The two sisters in this book grapple with god, their parents, and their faith, and come to two different conclusions. Neither is right no 4 stars--I really liked it. This is a very quiet coming-of-age novel. if you're looking for action, this isn't the book for you, but if you're interested in two young women questioning their familial faith, give this a try. I'm not sure what McKinney's religious background is, but she's very careful to take a balanced look at evangelicalism, which is admirable. The two sisters in this book grapple with god, their parents, and their faith, and come to two different conclusions. Neither is right nor wrong, and both are sympathetic. I read it very quickly, so 4 stars from me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura Dvorak

    Favorite of the year so far. GOD SPARE THE GIRLS hits all my fiction sweet spots: complicated female relationships, coming of age, family saga. It is so good...like FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS if it were church instead of football. I admired how the author was able to criticize evangelical communities without judging them. It's just a damn good book. Favorite of the year so far. GOD SPARE THE GIRLS hits all my fiction sweet spots: complicated female relationships, coming of age, family saga. It is so good...like FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS if it were church instead of football. I admired how the author was able to criticize evangelical communities without judging them. It's just a damn good book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cait

    This is one of those books where nothing really happens - it's over a pretty short period of time, and it's not quite a coming of age story, but it's in that same neighbourhood. This will definitely land differently with people who experience with evangelical christianity, but even without that: woof. Very excited to see what McKinney writes next. This is one of those books where nothing really happens - it's over a pretty short period of time, and it's not quite a coming of age story, but it's in that same neighbourhood. This will definitely land differently with people who experience with evangelical christianity, but even without that: woof. Very excited to see what McKinney writes next.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kim Vu

    A fun, gripping read that I flew through before I even knew what was happening. What an incredible portrait of a town and community that was foreign to me, but so intimately familiar to many in my life. A must read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marisha Lunde (MarishaReadsALot)

    3.5 Stars

  30. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Belokin

    I truly feel this book is EXACTLY the story more people need to hear in 2021. Many parts perfectly capture Southern Baptist culture in a way that is beautiful yet heartbreaking. I see so much of myself in Caroline and can’t help but wonder how she’ll grow in college. Excellent writing Kelsey! Congratulations on your debut novel and for being the first book I read in a kayak floating down a river.

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