Summary and book reviews of Outlawed by Anna North

Outlawed

by Anna North

Outlawed by Anna North X
Outlawed by Anna North
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  • Published:
    Jan 2021, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Will Heath
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About this Book

Book Summary

The Crucible meets True Grit in this riveting adventure story of a fugitive girl, a mysterious gang of robbers, and their dangerous mission to transform the Wild West.

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

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.

Excerpt
Outlawed

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw. Like a lot of things, it didn't happen all at once.

First I had to get married. I felt lucky on the day of my wedding dance. At 17 I wasn't the first girl in my class to marry, but I was one of them, and my husband was a handsome boy from a good family — he had three siblings, like me, and his mama was one of seven. Did I love him? We used to say we loved our beaus, my girlfriends and I — I remember spending hours talking about his broad shoulders, his awkward but charming dancing, the bashful way he always said my name.

The first few months of my marriage were sweet ones. My husband and I were hungry for each other all the time. In ninth form, when the girls and boys were separated to prepare us for married life, Mrs. Spencer had explained to us that it would be our duty to lie with our husbands regularly so that we could have children for baby Jesus. We already knew about the children part. We had read ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Throughout her travels Ada encounters spiritual leaders of all styles, from eugenicists like Dr. Lively to philosophers like the Kid. Both students of scripture, the two characters could not disagree more. Explore how the concepts of God and religion are portrayed in the novel. Is religion a vehicle for good or an excuse for punishment? Can it be both?
  2. Ada struggles to apply her piety to her circumstances; she says, "It wasn't that I didn't believe in baby Jesus—I prayed like anyone, I always had, when I was afraid or grateful or in pain ... It was only that I found the lessons of baby Jesus insufficient to explain the world" (29). Later, an outlaw in hiding, she laments, "If God really cared about us, why wouldn't He let us have ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Outlawed manages not only to flip the script on the masculine hero outlaw archetype, but to do so with biting wit and real purpose. North considers the role of a woman, especially in the world of the Wild West: Her place at the heart of dangerous superstitions, devised by men for maintaining a status quo of which they are afraid to lose control. Her role as a machine for making men happy and producing offspring. The Hole in the Wall Gang represents freedom from that machine life and its dangers, and provides new, more exciting dangers of its own...continued

Full Review Members Only (656 words).

(Reviewed by Will Heath).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
Outlawed stirs up the western with a provocative blend of alt-history and feminist consciousness. The result is a thrilling tale eerily familiar but utterly transformed.

BookPage
A gender-bending, genre-hopping yarn that’s part frontier novel, part Handmaid’s Tale and all ripsnorting fun...North easily subverts expectations as her characters struggle to find their identities in a patriarchal world.

Kirkus Reviews
[Outlawed] earns its place in the growing canon of fiction that subverts the Western genre by giving voice to the true complexity of gender and sexual expression, as well as race relations, that has previously been pushed to the margins of traditional cowboy or westward expansion tales. A genre- (and gender-) bending take on the classic Western.

Booklist
A lovely slow draw in the world of the Old West, a story about the people who don't belong, portraying a realistic, close-minded world that only accepts women willing to fit into a specific mold . . . It's exciting to read a Western tale that features such a range of women and queer characters.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] knockout...The characters' struggles for gender nonconformity and LGBTQ rights are tenderly and beautifully conveyed. This feminist western parable is impossible to put down.

Author Blurb R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
I'm dazzled by this feminist Western about a world in which women's worth and right to live are determined by the vagaries of fertility. Set in an alternate past, one all too similar to our today, Outlawed is terrifying, wise, tender, and thrilling. A masterpiece.

Author Blurb Jenny Zhang, author of Sour Heart
Outlawed flips the script on the beloved Western genre and gives us the iconic heroine-on-the-run we deserve. Anna North is a riveting storyteller...Reader, you are in for a real treat.

Author Blurb Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
A moving and invigorating complication of the Western, highlighting chosen family, love, and survival among outcasts in another American timeline. As she mines the genre for vital new stories, North beautifully shines a light on our real past and conveys a warning for the future.

Author Blurb Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias
Anna North has written a captivating Western unlike any other, with unique rhythms, dusty lands, and characters like new friends brought in on high winds. A grand, unforgettable tale.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Women of the Wild West

Pearl Hart The Hole in the Wall Gang in Anna North's Outlawed — a band made up largely of outcast women who have formed their own family outside of ordinary 19th-century society — may be fictional (despite taking its name from a real gang in the Wild West), but history features many true outlaw women and talented gunslingers.

Legendary shotgun-wielder Annie Oakley is a household name thanks to retellings of her life, including the musical Annie Get Your Gun. She was an impressive marksman who performed alongside her husband, Frank E. Butler, in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Another exemplary sharpshooter, Lillian Smith, opted for the rifle as her weapon of choice. Smith joined the Wild West show at the young age of 15. While ...

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