Editorial note: I received a copy of Outlawed in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Outlawed by Anna North was a let down for me. Not every book is going to blow me away but I had really high hopes for this one. And it failed to meet expectations.
I follow Reese’s Book Club each month and I generally try to read what she recommends. She’s had some great picks in the past (most recently I really enjoyed The Chicken Sisters). But I was not feeling Outlawed. It was a struggle for me to get through this one. I started it on a Sunday night, set it down. Tried it again on Tuesday night and did finish it. And yeah, it’s a two star read for me.
The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.
She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.
Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.
Alternate history western
I actually didn’t realize going in that this is an alternate history take on the classic Western story: stranger from another town. I’m not a huge Western fan, and even the alternate history twist didn’t work for me. Westerns just aren’t my thing.
There is a devastating flu in this story that killed the majority of the country and led to the end of the U.S. as it was known at the time. So now it truly is the Wild West out there with sheriffs in the towns calling all the shots. The flu also seems to have made many people infertile but the blame is always on the women. They’re either hung as witches or cast away from their homes.
I’ll give props that it’s creative for sure. But unfortunately, the character development was the big let down.
Hole in the Wall Gang
After being outcast, Ada eventually joins up with the Hole in Wall Gang. I expected this cast of characters to be quite dynamic. But honestly, I can’t even tell you some of the characters’ names. I did not think the author did a good enough job of making the characters engaging. Well, I will say, the Kid is fairly interesting enough—the leader of the pack who suffers from a mental illness. But that still could have been developed more.
And for the promotion of this as LGBT literary fiction, it goes fairly light in that area. Again, so many missed opportunities.
Maybe it was just timing or what, but Outlawed was not for me. Let me know if you have different thoughts. And for book clubs, check out my questions here.