In her novel, Kingdom of Women, Rosalie Morales Kearns imagines a reality that is post-patriarchy, and post male violence while showing us what near-future women had to go through in order to get to that reality. Morales Kearns weaves this story through the voices of multiple characters. One of these characters is Averil Parnell, a female Catholic priest. Part I of the book opens with a woman visiting Averil to seek her counsel in regards to taking revenge on her male college professor who has been harassing her ever since she refused to sleep with him.
While Averil seems to be of little help with this particular conversation, we learn that Averil was one of the twenty three original female priests that were to be ordained by the Catholic Church. On the day of their joint ordination however, the Cathedral Massacre took place and twenty two of the female seminarians were killed in cold blood. Averil then, is most definitely a woman who understands the yearning for revenge, the feeling of survivors guilt, and the expectation to be a wonderful priest for her dear friends who had that chance ripped away from them.
At the same time this conversation is taking place it has become clear that small groups of vigilante women are popping up around the world and punishing men for acts of violence against women. The male dominated government of course sees all these punishing acts as coincidental, explaining them away in one way or another, or ignoring them completely, never imagining that it is in fact the beginning of women rising up to truly end male dominance and violence.
Meanwhile, Averil is serving as a priest in a small rural area with two other male priests. She eventually becomes involved with a handsome young architect who is working on renovations of the church and their steamy and prolonged love affair eventually threatens Averil’s status as a priest. Perhaps luckily for Averil, her friend Catherine Beck, steps in and threatens to kill the architect if he doesn’t disappear from Averil’s life.
In addition to these vigilante groups a female country, a female utopia of sorts, has formed in what we presently know as North Dakota. This country has officially left the United States and governs itself, it is known as Erda. As you might expect, slowly the men in power of the United States begin to dislike this fully female run country and begin to make plans and attempts at taking it back.
Catherine and Averil soon choose to move to Erda and enjoy a few years of peace and happiness before war breaks out. Catherine quickly becomes one of the primary generals of the female army, while Averil is sent to various locations to serve as a chaplain, priest, or civilian worker throughout the war.
By the end of the novel women around the world are planning out how to continue the new post-patriarchy world through the education of the new generation and the isolation of the men who were brought up and contributed to patriarchy.
The novel ends with the same woman who originally went to Averil for guidance as an old woman nearing the end of her life. As she contemplates all that has happened she decides that “they should forget the past, forget patriarchy. Let it fade into a murky legend. Let future scholars debate whether it had ever even existed.” (272)
This novel was an absolute joy to read and I would highly recommend it. Hearing the story told by a variety of characters as well as the author’s focus on the important and well rooted theological and spiritual insights throughout the book make it academic and smart while still making it truly enjoyable to read.
Dr. Katie M. Deaver, earned her Ph.D. in Feminist Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Deaver holds a B.A. in Religion and Music from Luther College in Decorah, IA, as well as MATS and Th.M. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her dissertation explored the connections between the Christian understanding of atonement theology and the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States. Her other areas of interest include the connection between power and violence, sexual ethics, and working toward the elimination of the oppression and exploitation of women and girls around the world.
Categories: Abuse of Power, Books, Christianity, Community, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Fiction, Gender and Power, General, Violence, Violence Against Women, War and Peace, Women and Community, Women Mystics, Women's Ordination, Women's Voices