Giddy-up! This feminist spin on a Western stars a gang of lovable outcasts who rob and plot in search of a better life.
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Why I love it
Anna North’s latest book is cottagecore in novel form. Think prairie dresses, herbal remedies, and women homesteading on the American frontier. If dressing like it’s 1894 doesn’t feel like your thing, I would note that, having finished this book in two sittings, I feel confident calling it a Western for people who don’t usually read Westerns.
Accused of witchcraft when she can’t conceive a child, Ada must choose: face a witch trial and risk being hanged, or join the Hole in the Wall Gang and become an outlaw. Turns out, the most fearsome outlaws this side of the Mississippi are just like her—women and nonbinary people ostracized for being “barren,” gender-nonconforming, or witches. Having learned holistic medicine from her mother, Ada becomes the Gang’s de facto doctor and assists with small robberies and wagon heists as she proves herself.
But petty theft is just the beginning of the Gang’s far-reaching, not to mention dangerous, plans. A rollicking adventure, a surprising love story, and a social commentary in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale, this novel is full of both nuance and extraordinary compassion.
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.
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