In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.
On the day of her wedding-dance, Ada feels lucky. She loves her broad-shouldered, bashful husband and her job as an apprentice midwife.
But her luck will not last. It is every woman’s duty to have a child, to replace those that were lost in the Great Flu. And after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are hanged as witches, Ada’s survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.
She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang. Its leader, a charismatic preacher-turned-robber, known to all as The Kid, wants to create a safe haven for women outcast from society. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.
Outlawed is an interesting, fresh take on the Western genre, focusing on female characters ostracised from society because they are unable to have children. We follow main character Ada, who desperately wants children with her husband. When no child is conceived, her family start to fear for her safety. They live in a world where ‘barren’ women are often suspected to be witches, so Ada leaves her hometown and ends up joining the notorious ‘Hole in the Wall’ gang.
I enjoyed the story and found the narrative around how women were treated America in the late 19th century interesting, and the way she was treated by society once it became clear she had not been able to conceive a child with her husband. I’d say this makes up a bit less than the first third of the book, and the rest then becomes quite action packed. I found myself losing interest a little. It is an entertaining story but I would have liked less action and more character-building – I didn’t feel that we got to know the other women in the Hole in the Wall gang enough; they remained quite elusive – perhaps intentionally so, but I would have liked to dig a little deeper into their backgrounds and what exactly led them to join the gang in the first place. Some characters touch upon this when speaking to Ada but I felt there was a lot more to discover.
I felt that Ada’s acceptance of the violent parts of the gang’s activity was a little too quick considering her background. I understand that just because they’re women, they should be no less likely to have to do whatever is needed to survive, but rightly or wrongly, it felt that bit more shocking to me that their actions ended up really hurting people.
I liked the twist this book gave on the traditional Western genre and did enjoy it, but I wasn’t enthralled by it. It’s a book club read as I have to admit I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise, but I am glad I read it and it’s certainly something a little different.