Adelaide Henry is heading to Montana, a state where a woman can be a ‘lone’ woman and own her own parcel of land. She leaves California behind by burning more than bridges and she’ll carry her family curse with her … both of these, literally.
She leaves California by saying goodbye to her parents – by dousing their corpses and the entire house in gasoline and then lighting a match as the wagon she’s hired, now carrying her entire life (and a family curse) in a large, locked trunk, rolls away.
But can you really escape any horror when you’re a lone, Black woman in the middle of nowhere just after the turn of the 20th century?
On paper, by description, this is exactly the kind of book that might appeal to me … western and horror. But in practice, this had not enough to do with either.
Despite the dark promise at the beginning of the novel with the burning of the homestead, the horror here is teased throughout. I’m not a fan of the in-your-face horror, and subtlety is generally more appreciated, but I’ve often noted that subtle horror is difficult to maintain for a novel and this, to me, is a case in point. It’s a teasing of the same thing, over and over, starting from page one: what’s in the trunk?
I generally appreciated the sociological aspects of the book much more – the lone woman making her way in a dangerous territory during a dangerous time (when isn’t it a dangerous time for a woman alone?) and the need for the other lone women looking to band together, to look out for one another in this territory. And just when I’d settle in to this being the focus of the book, we’d be teased with the horror again and I’d get frustrated, wondering what this is supposed to be – and I know it could be more than one thing, but rather than seamlessly integrating stories, this felt like one idea would unceremoniously dropped to bring about something else.
Adelaide was an interesting character and we got to know her quite well. The others in the book are generally two dimensional, Her parents, dead before we begin the story, are more interesting than just about anyone else we meet.
I did like the western and sociological aspects of this book but the overall concept did not work for me.
Looking for a good book? Lone Women by Victor LaValle is a western/horror novel with a strong central character and interesting concept that gets lost trying to bring out a dark story.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an hoenst review.
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author: Victor LaValle
publisher: One World
hardcover, 304 pages