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I was drawn to the cover of this book. I know what they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but here we are. Outlawed by Anna North is a dystopian gunslinging wild west meets Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It was a really fun genre mash-up, and I loved reading it.
Outlawed is set in 1984, and if you are an avid reader of dystopian novels, you’ll definitely be aware of the subtle ways that North pays homage to her dystopian writing predecessors throughout the novel. It follows the story of Ada, a young woman who was recently married in a small community where she is an apprentice midwife with her mother. The culture of the town is very conservative and religious. Women are meant to fall pregnant quickly after getting married and have successful pregnancies, and raise their children at home. There is one glitch after Ada’s perfect wedding – she can’t fall pregnant. She tries and tries, but her husband’s parents begin to grow suspicious. Ada’s mother even gets her to sleep with another man in secret so she can get pregnant. All Ada wants is a child. Her desire, though, goes beyond any female urges. If Ada doesn’t fall pregnant, she could be cast out from society or, worse – deemed a witch.
Ada flees after several women in the community accuse her of using witchcraft to deform and kill their babies. She leaves and goes to a convent, where her life changes forever.
Anna eventually leaves the convent because she so desperately wants to practice midwifery and help other women. She goes on a journey to try to uncover the real reason some women cannot have children, and it leads her to the Kid and their gang.
The Kid is one of those characters who is a legend. Their identity is never truly revealed. They are almost like a Robinhood or Ned Kelly type (for my Australian readers). Their gang is notorious for robbing banks and causing mayhem, and when she finds the Kid, she finds a new way to use her medical skills and ultimately finds a family.
I don’t want to give too much more away plot-wise, as there are a lot of fun shootouts, chases on horseback, bank robberies, and so much more. If you’ve loved any Westerns and have a soft spot for dystopian novels, then Outlawed is a great book.
As you can see from my last book review about the dystopian novel “Unsheltered“, I’ve been going through a phase with my reading of late. I have some great reviews coming from a variety of genres, be sure to sign up so you never miss a post. As always, share the reading love.