Lone Women by Victor LaValle was a surprise, horrific delight! I went in pretty blind reading this and I think it only enhanced the experience of this new release. The early 1900s, a single Black woman with a dangerous secret, and the American frontier? This is no walk through the prairie. Continue reading to get my take on Lone Women.
Adelaide Henry carries an enormous steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. It’s locked at all times. Because when the trunk is opened, people around her start to disappear…
The year is 1914, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, and forced her to flee her hometown of Redondo, California, in a hellfire rush, ready to make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will be one of the “lone women” taking advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can cultivate it—except that Adelaide isn’t alone. And the secret she’s tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing keeping her alive.
Told in Victor LaValle’s signature style, blending historical fiction, shimmering prose, and inventive horror, Lone Women is the gripping story of a woman desperate to bury her past—and a portrait of early twentieth-century America like you’ve never seen.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I’m telling you I was invested in that trunk initially for all the wrong reasons. In typical fashion, from when I read the synopsis to then reading the book, I took that time to completely forget the content of that synopsis. Thus I’m sitting here being like, why won’t people help her move her heavy trunk? She’s moving to a different state and has a whole lot of crap in that trunk. As a person who moved frequently in college and grad school, I can relate. BUT DANG… when that trunk has its reveal, I was… surprised to say the least.
I have not read anything by Victor LaValle before, so I was not ready for the cause of Adelaide’s current and past misfortunes. LaValle did an amazing job at just slightly hinting at it from page one and dragged us along until the things that go bump in the night made their way into the light. I can also say I did not guess the twist/reveal nor was it so outlandish that I lost interest. Instead, what this did was create some mistrust in our main narrator. This is always a fun device to encounter!
I always appreciate authors who know their history and explore those silent histories we often do not hear of. Typically when we think of the wild west and frontiers, we think of cowboy movies and white families making their lives work in an unforgiving place. Other characters are tangential. Well, that is due in part to the fact that that is what is often depicted in books, movies, and tv shows. LaValle dives into the lives of the minority and disenfranchised women who were able to carve out lives for themselves in the frontier of America at this time period.
I really enjoyed Lone Women. It gives an important look into the experiences (in addition to traumatic horror-fabricated ones) of women like Adelaide in the American frontier. All the characters are well-developed, the story’s pacing is steady, and it continues to surprise you with the unexpected. If you get the chance, be sure to read a copy of Lone Women by Victor LaValle.