What a hoot!
Outlawed by Anna North was the perfect summer holiday book. Light and easy to read, with an interesting premise and an uncomplicated storyline. And a great cover!
The story opens in late 19th-century America, though not quite the Old West we know. In this version of our past, the Great Flu of the 1830s killed 90 percent of the U.S. population, snuffing out the Industrial Revolution and the federal government. A decimated nation was in no mood for Civil War; the few Black survivors of the plague escaped slavery on their own. And now, some 60 years later, the people remaining in the Dakotas have built a patriarchal Christian society centered on fertility.Washington Post
I don’t always get on with books recommended by the Reese Witherspoon book club, but I am very happy to make an exception here.
If I wanted to be finicky, I could question the lack of racial inclusivity and the distinct lack of Native American characters, despite the era and location. The religious mania and ignorance that ruled this world also never seemed to be challenged by the characters or by North. It was accepted and tolerated for the sake of Baby Jesus and Mother Mary. I also would have liked more stuff about the flu and the change of politics and how they got to where they were.
However these niggles only occurred to me after my binge-reading session on the weekend was over. During the middle of the binge I was having too much fun to worry about any flaws.
Riding trails with Ada and the Hole in the Wall gang became the new frontier – a gender frontier! The gang was a made up of women who were no longer accepted by their communities. For being barren, for sexual subversion or for being witches. Some were gay, some were gender fluid and most of them dressed up as men to go on raids.
But Ada didn’t just want to be a rebel hiding in the woods. She was training to be a midwife before being run out of her town. She was filled with a passion to learn and to dispel myths and superstitions surrounding females bodies and how they worked (or not). Her aim was to work with a famous frontier midwife to make the lives of other women better. But before she could move on safely, she had to convince the gang to trust her, accept her and help her to get to where she wanted to be.
This middle part is where the fun cowboy stuff happens. Drinkin’, shootin’ and lots of horse riding. Naturally there are a couple of shoot-outs and some time in the county jail.
If you’re looking for something entertaining and a little subversive for your next holiday read, then this could be the one for you!