The Outlander: A Novel (P.S.)

By Gil Adamson
Binding:Paperback
Publisher:Harper Perennial, (7/1/2009)
Language:English



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In 1903 Mary Boulton flees alone across the West, one heart-pounding step ahead of the law. At nineteen, she has just become a widow–and her husband's killer. As bloodhounds track her frantic race toward the mountains, she is tormented by mad visions and by the knowledge that her two ruthless brothers-in-law are in pursuit, determined to avenge their younger brother's death. Responding to little more than the primitive instinct for survival at any cost, she retreats ever deeper into the wilderness–and into the wilds of her own mind.

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 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
 
 

1. When we meet the widow, she is emotionally remote, frightened, and unable to form a plan. She has a strong will to survive, but few skills. By the end of the book she seems like a different woman. Is she a different person, or the same person with new skills? Never mind fictional characters, is it possible for people to change?

2. What is the cause of the widow's madness? Is this a manifestation of severe post-partum depression, or has Mary always been a little off? Will she always be, or is there some hope?

3. Regarding religion, the author says of Mary that "she had a child's disinterest in any father other than her own." Does Mary truly understand faith? Does she herself have any faith? Has she has been given any real instruction in faith? Does one need instruction? Of all the characters in this novel, who has the greatest sense of faith, or of the divine?

4. What motivates the bird lady to take in "strays and lame ducks"? She is described as a Good Samaritan—do you think she is one? Why are Zenta and Jeffrey so protective of her? Also, she tells the widow that the maid Zenta "dislikes you more than any other person I've brought to the house." Is there something about Mary that is different than the other "lame ducks"?

5. The names in this novel are out of a fairy tale: the widow, the Ridgerunner, the Reverend, the giant, the dwarf. Why did the author decide to choose such archetypal monikers for her characters? Do the characters come across as archetypes, or as fleshed-out personalities?

6. While sewing an injured miner's wound closed, Mary thinks "This is what the embroidery lessons were for." Did you learn anything new about women's (and men's) lives at the turn of the last century? Is historical detail important to you, or do you pay most attention to the story and character?

7. At one point, the widow realizes she has found "a kind of amnesty" with the Reverend. Is amnesty different from forgiveness? Do you think Mary wants forgiveness, or that she forgives herself?

8. The natural world itself is almost a character in The Outlander. Different characters have different relationships with it. For instance, in the "fine black boots," the twins seem out of place in the mountains, while William Moreland has been content to live alone in the wilderness for over a decade. What was your feeling about this element of the novel? In real life, have most of us lost a sense of the natural world?

9. After the avalanche, the widow lies in McEchern's store "as if dead" and thinks "he is gone, he is gone." It seems clear she is thinking of Bonny—but perhaps her lament for "him" is wider than that. What have men meant to her over the span of this novel?

10. After the landslide, Mary registers a change in herself. She is "like a different woman, one direly accustomed to loss. With nothing to her name, she had simply let go, let go of everything." What has she been holding onto? What does letting go accomplish?

11. "Find me." Why does Mary leave at the end? Does she want to live alone, as Moreland has—or is it a lover's game? Will the Ridgerunner have much trouble finding her? Where will she/they go now? Deeper into the wild, or toward civilization?

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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in 1903, Adamson's compelling debut tells the wintry tale of 19-year-old Mary Boulton ([w]idowed by her own hand) and her frantic odyssey across Idaho and Montana. The details of Boulton's sad past—an unhappy marriage, a dead child, crippling depression—slowly emerge as she reluctantly ventures into the mountains, struggling to put distance between herself and her two vicious brothers-in-law, who track her like prey in retaliation for her killing of their kin. Boulton's journey and ultimate liberation—made all the more captivating by the delirium that runs in the recesses of her mind—speaks to the resilience of the female spirit in the early part of the last century. Lean prose, full-bodied characterization, memorable settings and scenes of hardship all lift this book above the pack. Already established as a writer of poetry (Ashland) and short stories (Help Me, Jacques Cousteau), Adamson also shines as novelist. (Apr.) 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcoveredition. 

From Booklist
Tracked by bloodhounds and pursued by brutal-looking redheaded twins, a gently reared young woman flees over the plains of western Canada and into the mountains. She hears voices and sees events that may or may not be happening, causing her and other characters in this stylistically complex novel to question her sanity. The widow (as she is called in the first eight chapters of the book) is rescued by strangers who allow her free passage on a ferry or give her sanctuary and one who starts her back toward reality and sanity. Adamson cleverly integrates techniques of the adventure-suspense novel with a refined, often poetic style. She maintains suspense while portraying the wilderness of Canada’s far west and providing fine portraits of the people who lived in and were shaped by it. The slow unfolding of story and character coupled with lyrical descriptions of the terrain, an occasional touch of bizarre humor, and a multitude of well-chosen historical details will appeal to readers of literary writing as well as historical- fiction fans. --Ellen Loughran --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. 

Review
"A remarkable first novel, full of verve, beautifully written, and with all the panache of a great adventure." -- Michael Ondaatje

"This remarkable novel opens at full gallop and never slows. Adamson has seamlessly merged a compelling narrative with poetic language to create a work that is full of beauty and heart and wonder." -- Ron Rash, author of SAINTS AT THE RIVER and SERENA

". . .[The Outlander] is a hallucinatory road novel -- or, more accurately, trail novel -- written in a chanting prose that's rich with wilderness description, physical adventure and barbed humor. . . . Here's a novel that offers both an intense journey (Mary's) and a portrait of a specific time and place: the Canadian frontier. . ." -- The Seattle Times

"The Outlander deserves to be read twice, first for the plot and the complex characters which make this a page-turner of the highest order, and then a second time, slowly, to savor the marvel of Gil Adamson's writing. This novel is a true wonder." -- Ann Patchett

"Gil Adamson's first novel bolts off the opening page. . . An absorbing adventure from a Canadian poet and short story writer who knows how to keep us enthralled. . . . The Girl Being Chased is one of the most enduring figures of chivalric and chauvinistic literature. . . a strikingly pensive novel, anchored by the stark beauty of its setting and the harsh wisdom of its narrator. . . . Adamson is as captivating with descriptions of vast mountain ranges as she is with the smaller calamities. . . her story will unsettle your dreams just the same." -- Washington Post --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. 

Review
"THE OUTLANDER deserves to be read twice, first for the plot and the complex characters which make this a page-turner of the highest order, and then a second time, slowly, to savor the marvel of Gil Adamson's writing. This novel is a true wonder." (Ann Patchett )

"This remarkable novel opens at full gallop and never slows. Adamson has seamlessly merged a compelling narrative with poetic language to create a work that is full of beauty and heart and wonder." (Ron Rash, author of SAINTS AT THE RIVER and SERENA )

"A remarkable first novel, full of verve, beautifully written, and with all the panache of a great adventure." (Michael Ondaatje ) 

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Gil Adamson is the author of two books of poetry and a collection of stories, Help MeJacques CousteauThe Outlander is her first novel. She lives with fellow writer Kevin Connolly in Toronto.


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