Bianca Marais is the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh (Putnam, 2017 and 2019). She teaches at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where she was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing in 2021. A believer in the power of storytelling in advancing social justice, Marais runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young Black women in Africa to write and publish their own stories, and is constantly fundraising to assist grandmothers in Soweto with caring for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In 2020, Marais
started the popular podcast, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, which is aimed at helping emerging writers become published.
The House in the Cerulean Sea meets The Golden Girls in this funny, tender, and uplifting feminist tale of sisterhood featuring a coven of aging witches who must unite their powers to fight the men determined to drive them out of their home and town.
A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat. Summoned by an alarm, five octogenarian witches gather around Ursula when danger is revealed to her in a vision. An angry mob of townsmen is advancing with a wrecking ball, determined to demolish Moonshyne Manor and Distillery. All eyes turn to Queenie—as the witch in charge, it’s her job to reassure them—but she confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments and property taxes. Queenie has been counting on Ruby’s return in two days to fix everything. Ruby is the only one who knows where the treasure is hidden, those valuable artifacts stolen 33 years ago on the night when everything went horribly wrong. Why didn’t clairvoyant Ursula see this coming sooner? Wasn’t Ivy supposed to be working her botanical magic to keep the townsmen in a state of perpetual drugged calm, all while Jezebel quelled revolts through seductive bewitchment?
The mob is only the start of the witches’ troubles. Brad Gedney, a distant cousin of Ivy, is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy that was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. And things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. In a race against time, the women have nine days to save their home and business. The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but fear their aging powers are no match against increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of extra help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.
Funny, tender, and uplifting, THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family, and unlikely friendships. Marais’ true power is her clever prose that offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity, and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Both heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you wonder: why were we taught to fear the witches, and not the men who burned them? Above all, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.
When an angry mob turns up at Moonshyne Manor, no one is more surprised than the six octogenarian witches who reside there. Thanks to a calming drug being put into the brew that leaves their distillery & seductive bewitchment, the witches have managed to keep the peace. But this time is different, behind on their bills and with the ever looming threat of demolishment, the Witches know the only person who can save them now is Ruby, a member of their coven who knows where the hidden treasure is from their heist 33 years ago, on the night that the covens lives were changed forever. But Ruby’s homecoming isn’t the event they had all hoped, and soon, alongside Persephone, a feisty young girl determined to take down the patriarchy, the women have to start looking at other avenues to save their home. They have nine days left, nine days in which secrets long held come to light, enemies are revealed and the sisters have to decide just how much they are willing to risk to save the only place they have ever called home.
To get a good understanding of the Witches of Moonshyne Manor, imagine the Golden Girls, only older and with magic. That’s really the only way I can describe it. Queenie, Jezebel, Ivy, Ursula, Tabitha & Ruby quickly wormed their way into my heart with their no-nonsense attitude, their lack of care for the patriarchy and men in general and their bonds of sisterhood. They are what make this story as good as it is, alongside Persephone, the young girl who vows to help the sisters any way she can and her dog, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Each sister has their own brand of magic, their own strength and together they are nearly unstoppable. I think Jezebel was my favourite of the sisters, her power is seduction, bewitchment and honestly I just loved her no fucks given attitude, to see a women of that age written as someone not only interested in sex, but prolific was incredible, and her scenes definitely added plenty of humour to the story.
The story sets off from the first page and never really lets up. It’s fast, fun, full of magic as well as mystery. Marias writing style has the characters as well as their differing magic styles jumping off the page and some of my favourite scenes was when their were interacting with each other, or using their magic. Though the main plot of the book is undoubtedly the timeline the sisters have in paying off their debt and keeping the manor, Marais ensures she keeps us hooked by adding in little mysteries throughout. What did happen on that night 33 years ago? Why did Ruby leave? How did the sisters come to live at the manor in the first place? Her use of flashbacks really help propel the story as well as give us better insights into the characters, their backstories and how exactly they came to be in their current situation.
What I loved most about this book was that, even though our characters are in their eighties, Marais never makes them lesser. She shows the truth of people that age, the aches, pains, lack of stamina that come with age, but she also makes these characters fierce, unstoppable, she shows that with age comes wisdom and a lack of fucks. It’s rare to get an MC over 30 these days, so to have that many in their eighties was special and thanks to their age we get some hilarious, heartwarming and perilous scenes. If you like your stories light, with low stakes and a happy ending pretty much guaranteed then this is the story for you. I adored reading about these witches and their pasts, and honestly wanted to spend more time with them. I will definitely be checking out whatever Marias writes next.