Resilience shows in ‘The Outlander’ novel


Gil Adamson’s “The Outlander” begins with Mary Boulton, a 19-year-old widow by her own hand, on the run. She’s pursued by her twin brothers-in-law, out to avenge their murdered brother and bring her to justice.
Mary, referred to in this novel as “the widow,” is now on her own in the 1903 Canadian wilderness. She has no plan other than to keep moving — running from her crime, her past life, visions and the voices in her head.
She stumbles into a rural church in need of normalcy, and is taken in by an old woman who is known for “taking in strays.” Her time with the “Bird Lady” is short lived, however, since not enough distance has been put between her and her pursuers.
Word comes to the household that two strange men are looking for a woman on the run.
She flees with a stolen horse, some cooking utensils and a pipe. From there, she encounters a hermit known as the Ridgerunner, and not a moment too soon — her horse has been chased off by wolves, and she’s tried to survive by eating a deer carcass they left behind.
In her time with the Ridgerunner, they have a brief affair, then she is once again alone. She is found by a Crow Indian named Henry, who takes her to The Reverend.
The Reverend is building a church in the mining community of Frank, and she soon becomes a protected member of the community.
Due to an event I don’t want to spoil, she must leave the mine. She’s on foot, helpless and is eventually captured by the twins.
I don’t want to give away any more plot twists, but I have to say that the ending couldn’t possibly be better. It’s not so much a resolution as a continuation to a story we can only speculate on.
Mary’s character is very resilient yet fragile and this played well with the harsh landscape she is journeying through. She came from a good home, raised by a father who lost his faith when he lost his wife.
Mary’s grandmother eagerly handed her off to the first man interested in her, since she is not social and a bit odd in the eyes of those who want to be unburdened of her.
Her new husband turns out to be nothing he said he was and after the death of their child, Mary snaps and murders him with his own gun. One thing I wish the book focused on a little more was Mary’s visions and voices. It’s implied that what Mary is seeing and experiencing could very well be in her head, but that is up to us to decide.
In one very eerie scene, she speaks to young girls who, she finds out too late, are not there. It’s a very spooky part of the book, and I guess I wanted to read more of that. I believe its purpose was to set the tone as to how fragile her mind is and make us question what her reality is considering that she is living through starvation, despair and regret.
This story is a combination of many books I have enjoyed over the years. At times, it seems like I was reading The Odyssey, at times a Jack London story, and for some reason it reminded me of The Good Earth — possibly because of the harsh reality of what it meant to be female in a certain time and place.
This story is beautifully written, not surprising once I learned that Gil Adamson is also a poet.

— Sarah Smith, Baker City Herald

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