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.
13 thoughts on “Kingdom of Women BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver”
Oh, Katie, you’ve done it again! Truly drawn me in with your words and inspired me to share! Kingdom of Women sounds like a wonderful book for us to read to help us imagine some alternatives we might or might not choose. Perhaps it is an example of women’s empowerment we can take to heart as we seek our way forward to the healing of our nation and our souls. Imagine if we citizens of the U.S. passed national legislation that every state had to have one female and one male senator. And then required that for representatives as well.
With at least 50% women legislative and governing representatives at every level of the nation, state, and local areas I believe our country would change dramatically. And there are so many other diversities that could be represented in proportionate numbers. One LGBT legislator per ten (or less?) straights. Rising numbers of African American and Hispanic legislators as their numbers grow. And more. In other words we would have true representation at all levels of government. We could come closer to utopia in reality, and perhaps vastly reduce domestic violence, war, and discrimination. And we might achieve so much more. Even heal our and the nations’s souls. But then am I dreaming? Maybe someone will write that book.
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Thank you so much for you comment Betty! I’m so glad you liked that review. I love the ideas that you present in this comment! It would truly be so wonderful to change the structures that we currently have in order to bring about the change your comment suggests! Love it!!
It sounds like an interesting story, though I’m not sure about using violence to overcome violence. Maybe in that–in this–world, that’s the only way to do it? I’m very hopeful about the upcoming elections and the multitude of women running for offices from local to state to federal. I’m hoping they’ll have more sense–more compassion, more intelligence–than the guys currently in office.
Hooray for empowered women! Thanks for posting this book review! Brava!
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Thanks Barbara! Its true… there was definitely more violence in the book than I would have expected. That being said the author did some really wonderful things with a peaceful matriarchal society… when that society was left on its own and not being taken over by armies from other countries.
“Not being taken over by armies….” Sigh. So much of the world and so many women have suffered this fate. I think I gotta read this book. In my copious free time, of course. Thanks again for your intelligent and thoughtful review.
Sounds like a fun book that would satisfy my desire to bop some men on the head and consign them to a desert island where they couldn’t do any harm. However, with Barbara A. I wonder if we can’t do better then perpetuating the male system of war and violence? It seems to me that the way forward is in changing the systems of power – like leaven in a loaf of bread.
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Thanks Barbara! It most definitely was an empowering book to read… but yes there is most definitely a darkness to it as well.
I’m struck by the themes of war, revenge, and murder – weapons of patriarchy – that surface in this review. I don’t think women rising up in revenge is the way to create a woman – centered world
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Thanks for your comment Sara! Yes, the book most definitely has some intense dark violent spots. The author does do a nice job of offering what a truly peaceful female only society might look like… and then when the “old” patriarchal country takes over how they response to that take over. It most definitely was a trip down the rabbit hole in many ways.
Wonderful to imagine. Did they use the Declaration of Women’s Independence? Find it by clicking “Read More” on http://www.cmsorority.com/blog.
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There’s another book with a similar title: “The Kingdom of Women,” by Hong, that describes a real matrilineal society that still exists in China – the Mosuo people. I would hope we could find a way to empower women without resorting to violence.
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That sounds like a wonderful book as well! I will be adding it to my reading list!
Let me know if you would like a complimentary copy. I will be happy to mail you one.