In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand.
Gil Adamson's extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist -- the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck nineteen-year-old woman. As the young widow encounters characters of all stripes -- unsavoury, wheedling, greedy, lascivious, self-reliant, and occasionally generous and trustworthy -- Adamson weds her brilliant literary style to the gripping, moving, picaresque tale of one woman's deliberate journey into the wild.When Gil Adamson published her first two books, a volume of poetry (Primitive; 1991) and a collection of stories (Help Me, Jacques Cousteau; 1995), readers immediately recognized a unique and unusually compelling voice, one that partnered the random and the surreal with a finely tuned technical brilliance. The Outlander more than fulfills the promise of that voice.
I finished this book on Saturday. As I am writing this review up, it is Sunday. If only I could do this all the time I would probably have more readers and better reviews! Unfortunately, it takes me forever to get around to review writing this year. I am still writing reviews from months ago and I doubt I will review everything that I read this year. I have to review some books, though, and this is one of the priorities. I try to read a fair amount of Canadian literature. Some I love, while some is just okay. This book falls in the love category! It's crazy popular at my library right now because it was shortlisted for the Canada Reads, but it was so worth the wait! Gil Adamson is going on to my Canadian Authors That I Love List, that's for sure!
When the novel begins we have a 19-year-old girl on the run. We are not told why or what, but we understand that something horrible has happened. She is dressed in her widows black and is so frightened that she does not even plan ahead to bring any money with her. It is only as the novel progresses that we learn anything about her. Then, you have to figure out what the lies are and what the truth is as she begins to tell her tale to the people that she meets along the way. You soon know, though, that a life on the run in Canada's wilderness is not the life she was raised for. She was raised in a good home with at least a couple servants that did all the domestic work for her and she never was taught how to survive in the wilderness on her own. You learn and adapt, though, and it is amazing how much she grows during the course of the novel.
For those that need a reminder, life in Canada's west is not ideal. During 1903 it would have been largely uninhabited and barren. When she decides to run out into the wilds, she runs the risk of dying of exposure and never running into another human being. Even now, there are large sections of the country that are not suitable for large-scale civilization, so it wouldn't be impossible for this story to be taking place now instead of a little over a hundred years before. What I am leading up to saying is that this is not a happy novel. It has happy moments, but life is hard and Adamson make sure you know it. There are moments where you honestly think nothing else horrible could happen to the main character, but it is never unbelievable. Coupled with some great secondary characters, Adamson has herself a winner here.
I strongly recommend this book! It's hard to review it, though, because you are supposed to discover the story as you go along. Even telling you her name, I think, is a spoiler! So, I am going to leave it at this and hope that you will be curious enough to discover what happened for yourself.