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The Outlander: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – June 30, 2009
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We don't learn the actual name of the protagonist, Mary Boulton, until over 100 pages into the book. Until then, and mostly thereafter, she is referred to as "the widow," which not only gives her a slightly off-center identity, but describes her situation as well. Mary wants to be anonymous, and with good reason: she killed her worthless husband and is pursued by his revenge-seeking twin brothers. The details of her past unfold slowly as Mary tries to disappear into the wilderness of Idaho and Montana, dragging along her memories of a loveless childhood, a brutally unhappy marriage, and a dead child of her own. Her fragile mental state teeters on a razor's edge between reality and hallucination throughout her journey and eventual liberation.
The other characters in the book are "outlanders" too. The evil twins--gawked at by the superstitious citizens of the time--are relentless in their pursuit, driven by their need to avenge their brother's death to gain the approval of their aloof and demanding father. The various people who help Mary along the way, Mrs. Cawthra-Elliot (a widow herself), the Crow Indian Henry (actually born in Baltimore) and his white wife Helen who helps her, the Reverend Bonnycastle and the dwarf saloon keeper who befriend her in an isolated mining camp, all are apart from society in some way. The most isolated of all is William Moreland, the Ridgerunner, who has been living in the mountains as a hermit for so long he doesn't know what year it is.Read more ›
Set in 1903, young Mary Boulton is living in an isolated cabin. After losing her baby, and suffering from depression she kills her husband when she learns of his infidelity. Pursued by her dead husband's brothers, Mary is faced daily with life and death situations. Not really being equipped with survival skills each day is a test, but she proves herself to be resilient and manages to evade her pursuers.
As she makes her way to an uncertain freedom through Idaho and Montana, she manages to run into quite a mixture of individuals; some pretty unsavory outcasts, but others that prove to be helpful. With the little help she receives from these unwitting characters Mary manages to survive....at least for a while. In spite of the fact that Mary is a murder it is difficult not to see her in a sympathetic light.
Gil Adamson is a wonderful novelist and reminds me of Andrea Barrett author of Ship Fever, Voyage of the Narwal, Servant of the Map and others. Though the author of Primitive, a book of poetry, and Help Me, Jacques Cousteau, a book of short stories Outlander is Gil Adamson's first novel.
Do novelists who are poets first make better storytellers than those who aren't? In addition to Adamson, I'm thinking of Ron Rash, author of One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight. There is a gift for dialogue and a playfulness with the language that just seems special by these authors.
There are a number of different themes in this novel and the setting itself is important. The environment is both beautiful and harsh. In order to survive, the widow needs to appreciate both and to adapt. Along her journey she meets some interesting characters, most of them outlanders in their own way, and learns how to survive. Can she find an enduring happiness?
At times the widow's mind is a confused and confusing space. It isn't always clear where reality begins and ends but this is integral to the story itself. This may not be an easy novel to read, but it is beautifully written and well worth the journey. I found myself reading slowly in order to appreciate the journey while simultaneously wanting to rush ahead to find out the ultimate destination.
This is Ms Adamson's first novel, and I'll certainly be looking to read more of her work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book so much. A real page turner. Jil I will be looking for more books you have written. Thanks.Published 19 days ago by Joyce
Better than I anticipated. I was disappointed in the ending but don't know how else it could end.Published 21 days ago by Nancy & Steve
What a morose book. DArkness, death, hunger, painful detail when it wasn't needed. Not a pleasant read at all. Pass this up for another book.Published 1 month ago by L Simmons
This book drew me in and I felt like I was Mary Boulton. A story that well illustrated the wilderness and emotions of its characters.Published 1 month ago by Mermaid62
Mary (known mostly as the Widow throughout the book) is young. She has just lost her baby, and killed her sorry no good husband. She is running from her two brother-in-laws. Read morePublished 1 month ago by C J
I can say, without reservation, that this was one very, very, long book with little action and a glacially moving plot. Wait a minute, I'm not sure there was a plot! Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer