In this strange, lovely, and beautifully told novel, a bi and biracial woman confronts difficult choices and a complicated family history. Giddings seamlessly weaves social commentary into the narrative as she contends with the history of persecution for witchcraft - with power and otherness - and brings it into a contemporary speculative-fictional world. The Upper Midwest setting is part of an America that mirrors our own in its patterns of oppression. The existence of witches and the fictional state's regulation of women for fear of witchcraft offer a fascinating way to examine how fear drives marginalization in our reality. A novel of learning to exist in (and apart from) the world in which you find yourself.— Oli Schmitz
Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler, a biting social commentary from the acclaimed author of Lakewood that speaks to our times—a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother, set in a world in which witches are real and single women are closely monitored.
Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother's disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman—especially a Black woman—can find herself on trial for witchcraft.
But fourteen years have passed since her mother’s disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30—or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more. When she’s offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother's will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.
In this powerful and timely novel, Megan Giddings explores the limits women face—and the powers they have to transgress and transcend them.
About the Author
Megan Giddings is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. Her first novel, Lakewood, was one of New York Magazine's top ten books of 2020, an NPR Best Book of 2020, a Michigan Notable book for 2021, a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards, and was a finalist for an L.A. Times Book Prize in the Ray Bradbury Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative category. Megan's writing has received funding and support from the Barbara Deming Foundation and Hedgebrook. She lives in the Midwest.
"Megan Giddings’ prose is brimming with wonder. The Women Could Fly is a candid appraisal of grief, inheritance, and the merits of unruliness." — Raven Leilani, author of Luster
"An interesting and often thought-provoking novel that looks at a world that enforces heteronormativity in a very limited fashion, and considers how it suffocates women’s autonomy and ability to truly live in their world." — Booklist
"It can be tempting to read 'The Women Could Fly,' which comes in the shadow of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and call the book timely. But the relationship at the heart of this novel — between Jo and her mercurial mother — is much closer to timeless." — New York Times
"The Women Could Fly is an absolute triumph....Giddings conjures up a world that feels familiar, despite the increasingly creepy hints of dystopia. And along the way, she shows what the anti-witch crusaders really fear most: our ability to create a better world if we work together." — Charlie Jane Anders, Washington Post
"... but here I’d like to tell readers that this novel is about witches and it’s incredibly entertaining. If only we could all be witches." — Washington Post
"We could all use a little magic right now.... [Giddings's] language and world-building are beautifully executed, rewriting our assumptions of witchcraft." — Boston Globe
"Giddings pulls off a dynamite story of a Black woman’s resistance in an oppressive dystopia. Giddings ingeniously blends her harrowing parable of an all-powerful patriarchy with insights into racial imbalances. ...This is brilliant." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Born of a radical imagination and executed with piercing elegance and skill, The Women Could Fly recalls legendary works of dystopian fiction but casts a spell all its own. Giddings is a rare and utterly original voice bridging the speculative and the all-too-real." — Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
“Profound, daring, wondrous, and utterly original. A feminist dystopian epic about a world where women’s life choices are policed and female power and autonomy are the most dangerous forces of all, Megan Giddings’ The Women Could Fly offers a hypnotic blend of enchantment and outrage. I could not love this novel more.” — Jessamine Chan, author of The School for Good Mothers
“The Women Could Fly lifts the veil of this world to show, amid the old grief and injustice, a glimmer of necessary magic. This is a gem of a book about womanhood, lineage, and defiance.” — C Pam Zhang, author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold
"Though The Women Could Fly pushes into unexpected territory, there are many elements that will feel uncomfortably familiar: protests against the continued infringement of the rights of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community; the rise of a vocal conservative minority; and, of course, widespread condemnation of witchcraft. But it also champions the power of community, inviting readers to view this society through a lens of hope rather than despair. ... The Women Could Fly, full of imaginative turns, is a timely look at gender roles and societal expectation." — Sara Beth West, Shelf Awareness (starred review)
"Magnetic ... Hempel’s writing is evocative and approachable. ... A stunning memoir and contemporary exploration of the diversity of family dynamics and coming-out narratives." — Library Journal (starred review)
"Combining the misogynist oppression of The Handmaid’s Tale with the sharp insight and science fictional tone of Octavia Butler, Giddings’s latest is a chilling but all too plausible tale." — Library Journal
“The Women Could Fly is one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling books I’ve read in years. It’s wildly imaginative, funny, deep, radical, and full of suspense—I read it in one giant gulp of pleasure. Megan Giddings is truly a remarkable writer.” — Jami Attenberg, author of I Came All This Way to Meet You
“The Women Could Fly drew me in immediately with its balance of humor and pain, magic and familiarity, and the unforgettable characters who are the novel’s beating heart. Reading this book is like putting on an old winter coat and discovering a magical talisman in the pocket: it’s full of warmth, comfort, and a whole new world of possibility. Megan Giddings is an exquisite novelist, and a writer to watch.” — Adrienne Celt, author of End of the World House
"Giddings has an incredible handle on the American family, on religious nationalism and how it impacts everyone. She writes with wisdom, grace and a skilled hand; her work is seamless on the page, especially on matters involving identity and all manners of diversity, which in lesser hands could feel didactic." — Los Angeles Times
"For a book about witches, The Women Could Fly feels pretty gritty and grounded, and has plenty to say about the regular old dystopia we’re stuck in." — Philadelphia Inquirer
"But beneath its surface, 'The Women Could Fly' boils as hot as a witch's cauldron." — Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Certain authors seem to have a crystal ball that helps them see into the future, and Megan Giddings displays those visions in The Women Could Fly....The thoughtful writing and masterful portraits of flawed people and their struggle for survival in a dystopian world is elegant and rewarding." — New York Journal of Books