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Outlawed

by Anna North

As I write this, I have the theme tune from Bonanza running through my mind – remember it? Dun da da, dun da da, dun da da, dun da da DA DA!  Westerns have certainly improved since those TV shows of our youth and here’s one based on an alternative history with an intriguing feminist twist.  Its fabulously nostalgic and evocative yet completely contemporary in its take on fertility and women’s rights. I loved it.  A deserving recipient of Reece Witherspoon’s book of the month.

On the day of her wedding, 17-year-old Ada’s life looks good; she’s in love with her young husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But Ada lives in a time when it is every woman’s duty to have children to replace those that were lost in the Great Flu – a time when barren women are routinely hanged as witches. So after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, she’s forced to run for her life – leaving behind everything she knows.

Despite being a fugitive, Ada is determined to work out what is wrong with her and other women who can’t fall pregnant.  She devotes herself to dispelling the religious explanations of infertility and learning the forbidden secrets of gynecological medicine.  In order to survive, 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 unpredictable, 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.

Stirs up the western with a provocative blend of alt-history and feminist consciousness. The result is a thrilling tale eerily familiar but utterly transformed. – Washington Post

‘Calling it The Handmaid’s Tale crossed with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid goes some way to describe this novel’s memorable world, but it is also wholly its own’ KIRKUS

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