Matrix – Lauren Groff is a favorite amongst the staff at Howe Library, but her latest novel, Matrix, is a particularly beautiful portrayal of female voice and power in a world that gives women very little of it. Set in the 12th century, Marie, a bastard child with royal ties, is sent from France to England to be a prioress at an abbey stricken with poverty, starvation and on the brink of collapse. At first life in the abbey is bleak and the sisters that remain there are worn-down, hardened, and set in their ways. Marie mourns her old life, before her time as a prioress, but eventually comes to accept that this is her fate. Once she accept her circumstances Marie is able to prove herself to the sisters, improve the abbey, and pour her desires into her faith. It is after this that the novel takes on bigger questions and Marie seeks things much greater than anything tangible and material. Marie is looking to build a utopia free from the outer world, where she and her sisters can speak directly with god and lock out a cruel world that has no place for them. Marie challenges traditional gender rolls, politics, and power structures. Marie is a strong, formidable woman from a period in which women held little power. Still, Groff presents us with a woman who’s ambition is always inching closer to abuse and self aggrandizement. We are kept wondering if Marie will ever cross the line, or if she’s found the perfect balance of power and love, of inspired faith and living a virtuous life. This was one of my favorite books I read in 2021. Maybe it’ll be the same for you in 2022!