Giddy-up! This feminist spin on a Western stars a gang of lovable outcasts who rob and plot in search of a better life.
Good to know
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.
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 seventeen 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 Burton’s Lessons of the Infant Jesus Christ every year since third form, so we had heard about how God sent the Great Flu to cleanse the world of evil, just like he’d sent the flood so many centuries before. We knew that baby Jesus had appeared to Mary of Texarkana after the sickness had killed nine of every ten men, women, and children from Boston to California, and struck a covenant with her: If those who remained were fruitful and peopled the world in His image, He would spare them further sickness, and they and their descendants forever after would be precious to Him.
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.
Member ratings (22,182)
Washington , DC
What an amazing book. A beautiful story of a group of misfits who refuse to be labeled by others. It’s got action, romance, humor, and such moving and thought-provoking stories. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This is my first western. I don’t know that another will really hold a candle to it. Midwives, abortions, witches, lesbians. There’s something for everyone. I don’t have enough characters to express.
West Hollywood, CA
What a great read! It puts you in the middle of a “western” that conforms to our preconceived notions and then subverts it all by examining identity and gender and faith and race. It’s a great book!!!
Salt Lake City, UT
I love the west and the desert & spent many nights sleeping under the stars. This helped me envision & feel their struggle in the environment. Excellent character development & relationships ????♥️????
Wichita Falls, TX
What a great page-turner! It goes to show the ripple effect in someone’s life, and how it can lead to places you never imagined. It also highlights a woman’s timeless resilience even in the old west.