This review does not contain any spoilers.
Like many people, I’ve found that having extra time at home due to the pandemic has sparked new hobbies and interests. It’s even helped to rekindle some of my old passions like reading books. With life-changing novels like The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, the recommendations from my Book of the Month subscription caused me to fall back in love with historical fiction books.
When Book of the Month released their selections for January 2021, Outlawed by Anna North immediately caught my eye. Not only because it was categorized as historical fiction, but because it offered a bold, reimagined version of the Old and Wild West. To sum it up in one sentence, Outlawed is far from your Grandpa’s western.
It’s marketed as a feminist western and takes place in the late 1890s. It focuses on a character named Ada, who is unable to have children and forced to run away from her home before she is hanged for the accusation of being a witch. She joins an infamous gang made up of other infertile women, both white and Black, and nonbinary people. The gang’s goal is to create a safe haven for other outcasts, no matter the cost.
The premise of the novel set my hopes high. I admire writers who take on topics that others wouldn’t dare to touch. I can only imagine the strength and courage it took to go against the grain and transform the landscape of the Old West.
On one hand, I really enjoyed the plot and the complex and courageous characters, but on the other, I found it slightly underdeveloped. Towards the middle of the novel, I began to lose interest and found it to be a bit of a slow read. I think I expected there to be a little more action in the novel than there was. I also would have liked a less abrupt ending and I think many readers would probably agree with me.
Despite these few criticisms, I did enjoy the originality of the novel and the fresh perspective it offered.
I rate it 3.5 stars.