The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.
Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.
Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?
As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?
Agnes at the End of the World was breathtaking and beautiful. I was so sad when Agnes’s tale ended.
The Story and the Setting
Kelly McWilliams does a fantastic job of building the world and giving her story momentum. There is never a dull moment while you’re reading. And even though you may be trying to guess what is going to happen next, you can’t. From the moment you begin to read about Red Creek, you start to feel that this could be a real town in the US. This slow build of how Red Creek began takes almost the whole book, but it is definitely worth getting to the end of it and how it relates to Agnes. The religious system that McWilliams sets up is just fantastically created. The way she uses Agnes to fuel it throughout the story is just *chef’s kiss*. I would honestly love to hear Agnes preach in real life. The journey that Agnes embarks on during a pandemic that slowly brings her closer to her God made me feel for her on such a high level. The plot was well paced and I was never bored while reading. I couldn’t really predict where the plot was going to end up either. I was pleasantly surprised at the ending and found tears in my eyes when I finally finished Agnes’s story.
The novel center around two sisters, Agnes and Beth. At the beginning of the story we see these two sisters at two ends of the belief spectrum within their religion. They abruptly swap sides a quarter into the story and then slowly they both reach an equilibrium towards the last half of the book. The personalities of the two were really believable and some of the decisions they made frustrated me, but I believe that was the point all along. They made selfish decisions and decisions for the greater good and it was just a perfect balance. I love Agnes and Beth to death.
Agnes became so selfless at the end of the book that it brought me to tears. I could feel her beautiful soul seep from the pages of the book. By the end all questions were answered and I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my chest when I finally closed the book. The writing was absolutely beautiful and it stayed that way until the very end. McWilliams tied a nice red bow around the ending and I am perfectly fine with the ending that she wrote.
I gave this book 5/5 stars because I will definitely be re-reading this book and I just thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. I loved how strong Agnes and Beth were throughout the story and I love a strong heroine in a story. Agnes’s role that she has in the book is also not one often given to women and it was just great to see. The story, writing, themes, and characters all deserve 5/5 stars as well.