In 1903 a mysterious young woman flees alone across the West, one heart-pounding step ahead of the law. At nineteen, Mary Boulton has just become a widowand her husband's killer. As bloodhounds track her frantic race toward the mountains, she is tormented by mad visions and by the knowledge that her two ruthless brothers-in-law are in pursuit, determined to avenge their younger brother's death. Responding to little more than the primitive fight for life, the widow retreats ever deeper into the wildernessand into the wilds of her own mindencountering an unforgettable cast of eccentrics along the way.
With the stunning prose and captivating mood of great works like Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain or early Cormac McCarthy, Gil Adamson's intoxicating debut novel weds a brilliant literary style to the gripping tale of one woman's desperate escape.
It was night, and dogs came through the trees, unleashed and howling. They burst from the cover of the woods and their shadows swam across a moonlit field. For a moment, it was as if her scent had torn like a cobweb and blown on the wind, shreds of it here and there, useless. The dogs faltered and broke apart, yearning. Walking now, stiff-legged, they ploughed the grass with their heavy snouts.
Finally, the men appeared. They were wordless, exhausted from running with the dogs, huffing in the dark. First came the boy who owned the dogs, and then two men, side by side, massive redheads so close in appearance they might be twins. Dabs of firefly light drifted everywhere; the night was heavy with the smell of manure and flowering apple and pear. At last, the westernmost hound discovered a new direction, and dogs and men lurched on.
The girl scrambled through ditchwater and bulrushes, desperate to erase her scent. For a perilous moment she dared to stop running, to ...
Mary Boulton's intense psychological transformation is augmented by Adamson's crystalline prose. Nothing is too minuscule for Adamson's notice: the mud at the bottom edge of Mary's hem, the glint in the brothers-in-laws' animal-like eyes, the color of the sky, the smell of the trees. Each sentence and paragraph is worth the contemplation of any great poem. The pacing is deliberate and perfect. Adamson's dark, yet delicate descriptions take this story from mere western escape story to a gothic fairytale. Mary's deepening madness, complete with hallucinated ghosts, plus the spare elements of romance, add to this perception.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (471 words).
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. ...
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