Texas Book Festival Book Club

July 2021

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God Spare the Girls

“Kelsey McKinney’s debut is a timely exploration of the moral contradictions of contemporary Evangelical Christianity. But the accomplishment of this canny novel is in positing coming of age itself as a loss of faith—not only in the church, but in our parents, our family, and the world as we thought we understood it..” —TBF 2018 featured author Rumaan Alam, author of That Kind of Mother and Leave the World Behind

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.God Spare the GirlsGod Spare the GirlsGod Spare the GirlsGod Spare the GirlsGod Spare the GirlsGod Spare the Girls


Thursday, July 29, - 7:30 pm - 8:15 pm CDT
RSVP now to watch a live conversation with author Kelsey McKinney
RSVP: A Virtual Conversation

About the Contributors

Kelsey McKinney is a freelance features writer and cofounder of Defector Media. She previously worked as a staff writer at Vox, Fusion, and Deadspin. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Cosmopolitan, and New York magazine, among other publications. Raised Evangelical in north Texas, she now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog. God Spare the Girls is her first novel. Author photo: Emilio Madrid
TBF '19 featured author Lyz Lenz's writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in the Heartland was published through Indiana University Press. Her second book, Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women was published by Bold Type Books in 2020. Lyz’s essay “All the Angry Women” was also included in the anthology Not that Bad edited by Roxane Gay. Lyz received her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. She lives in Iowa with her two kids and two cats and is a contributing writer to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Q&A with the Author

Why did you write your new book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?

I wrote God Spare the Girls because it’s a book I would have loved to read. There aren’t a ton of books about the evangelical church in America despite how important it is to so many people. I started working on it as a way to kind of process my own upbringing and how my own relationship to Christianity changed over time, but as I began to write these characters who weren’t real just seemed more important to me. I wanted to tell their stories, to show how concentration of power can hurt people, and to really get inside this moment where everything they’ve ever known is called into question. Because I grew up evangelical, people often want to know if this novel is autobiography. It’s not, but those questions are: questions of how you decide what to believe and who gets a say over your actions.

What's the last book you read, loved, and can't stop recommending? What about it spoke to you so much? 

I cannot recommend Monica West’s Revival Season enough and have been recommending it every chance I get. It’s another story about the church and power, but the landscape of our books are totally different. I honestly wish I could put them in people’s hands together. There are so many similarities between our books, but the thing I think Monica really shines at is making her characters feel so alive that even after I finished reading, I kept thinking about them.

What's the first book you remember reading? Who gave it to you?

The first book I remember reading was given to me by my paternal grandmother, who was a teacher for many years. It was a children’s book called Bentley and the Egg and my sister and I loved it because the silly little frog made funny faces and my dad would make them when he read to us at night. It’s a great little tale about the anxiety of responsibility and the fear of failure. And it has gorgeous illustrations.