CBR15PASSPORT: (Stamp #10: Different Genres, Horror)
CBR15BINGO: (Strange Worlds square: Lavalle specializes in infusing strange worlds into the real world.)
I read Lavalle’s The Changeling a handful of years ago when it first came out. Like that novel, Lone Women is a story about something very essential wrapped up in a mixed genre blanket of fairy/folktale, horror, and in this case, western. While The Changeling was about postpartum depression and what it means to be a parent, Lone Women is, as the title implies, about what it means to be a woman trying to make a life for herself alone. In this case, the task seems insurmountable: 1915 homesteading in Montana.
In Lavalle’s afterword, he writes about how he discovered a book, while on tour, about the history of women claiming land in Montana. No husband or father needed to co-sign. Nothing barring non-white women from owning land. It may seem shocking given the period and perceived notions about race and gender during the early 1900s, but no consideration was given to preventing something so unthinkable. After all, how could a woman survive on her own in a remote location with rough terrain, drastic weather, bandits, and distant resources?
With a single bag and a very large and heavy steamer trunk, Adelaide Henry leaves her family’s farm in California. A wagon, ship, and train all carry her far away from the only home she has ever known. Inspired by a railroad magazine article touting the success of a lone woman who made a name for herself in Montana through her own determination and hard work, Adelaide purchases a plot of land and dreams of a future where she can reinvent herself. Somewhere remote where she can live out her life while still watching over a dangerous family secret.
For the first time in her 31 years, Adelaide finds herself drawn into friendships. First, out of necessity, with her nearest neighbor, a widowed woman with a young son. Later with a bar owner and her partner. All lone women who set roots near the town years before her arrival. As she begins to trust the other women, Adelaide starts to unburden her secret to them. As she unravels her family’s shame, she sheds the stories that she tells herself and begins to face the truth.
Lavalle works magic with his writing. He writes simple yet lyrical prose about very difficult things. There may be a real monster in this story, but the bigger mons