opens with Mary Boulton, the widow, running
headlong through the wilderness. Around her the darkness morphs into human
shape, as Mary hears voices and sees abhorrent visions. Somewhere in the murky
distance are her angry brothers-in-law, large and dangerous. She's a widow by
her own hand, and they are pursuing her, anxious for retribution. The haunting
and spine-tingling qualities of the opening pages grab the reader in a chokehold
and refuse to let go.
Along Mary's escape route, she meets various eccentrics who mirror a person from
her past. For example, moments or conversations with Reverend Bonnycastle remind
Mary of her father, which prompts a flashback to her earlier life.
This mirror-like approach allows for the reader to learn about Mary's past in
measured doses. The subtle disclosure serves two purposes: primarily, it...
Beyond the Book
The Frank Slide
Most of The Outlander
is fictional, but the slide at Frank, which
catastrophically plagues the closing third of the story, is based on the factual
landslide at Frank, Alberta in 1903.
Frank, Alberta was a small Canadian mining outpost that was inaugurated as a
town in 1901. On April 29, 1903, 74 million tons of limestone
slid from the top
of Turtle Mountain and blanketed nearly three-square kilometers of the
valley floor. The slide removed the entire top of Turtle Mountain, dammed the
Crowsnest River, which formed a lake, blocked the Canadian Pacific Railway,
buried seven houses and other buildings near Frank, obliterated the majority of
the mine's exterior infrastructure, and killed 70 people. Although some believed...