Book Reviews / Canadian / fantasy / The Latest

“The Witches of New York” by Ami McKay: the importance of sisterhood


The Witches of New York novel with a beach background

I recently read Ami McKay’s novel The Witches of New York whilst I was on holiday on the Spanish island, La Palma. I spent a lot of time enjoying the sunshine and catching up on some much needed rest and reading. McKay’s novel struck a chord with me and felt it arrived in my life at a much needed time.

The Witches of New York tells of the story of three women—Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice. Eleanor and Adelaide run a tea shop in down town New York, which is actually more of a front for their true business, helping women with herbal and mystical medicine. Most of their work is kept in secrecy because their work also involves helping women with abortions and other female health problems that were not taken seriously in 1880. Eleanor and Adelaide have different powers, the former being more of a herbalist and witch by heritage and Adelaide has a way with seeing the future and the past. Together, they have a somewhat dysfunctional relationship. When Beatrice comes along, they quickly realise that she too has mystical powers and has the ability to speak to people who have died.

The three woman face natural and supernatural obstacles and although at times they lose sight of their bond with one another, they are quick to forget past quarrels and even quicker to help each other. A priest kidnaps Beatrice and he tries to ‘cleanse’ her of the devil. Ironically enough, it is a demon that is helping the priest kill these women he calls witches. Historically women have been marginalised and not just by men, but by an institution of laws and societal practices that kept many women stuck. Of course, there were tea shops like Eleanor’s and Adelaide’s, but the freedom with which they could practice was limited. The only way that they were success was through the conscious effort and support of other women. This is true of the 1800s and it is still true for women today. There is a great need for a better sisterhood, or network, of women helping and uplifting one another. We need to question our relationship with patriarchy and how it affects the decisions we make to help or dismiss the women around us.

The message of sisterly love and support is one of the messages from McKay’s novel that stuck with me most. It is a message I hope to carry with me into 2019 and it is a message I hope to share with many more women to come.

Have you read any good witchy novels in 2019? What are the ways you want to lift other women up in 2019? As always, share the reading love.

An extra fun fact about The Witches of New York is that the author, Ami McKay, is a decedent of witches.

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