- 304 pages
- Horror, Historical Fiction
- Award winning author of The Changeling
- Book of The Month pick for March 2023
Victor LaValle’s Lone Women is the story of Adelaide Henry, a young black woman with a horrifying secret.
Growing up in the early 1900s on a small farm in California, Adelaide hasn’t had it easy. And yet, when she reads an article about women homesteading alone in Montana–in exchange for land–Adelaide is too tempted to pass it up. The caveat? She must bring with her a larger than life secret, packed into a steamer trunk.
The secret Adelaide’s tried so desperately to lock away is just dying to come out, and it’s only a matter of time.
In this gripping story, LaValle blends history with horror creating twists and turns that readers will love. Lone Women is sure to impress.
Let me start this off by saying that I actually have a trip planned for Montana this summer and it’s one of my top destinations, so I was SO excited to see this book on Book of The Month’s picks for this month. But, sadly, Lone Women fell short for me–and let me tell you why.
I’ve been reading a lot of horror lately. I recently read Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder, and while that one wasn’t a 5 star read for me either, I think it was weird and memorable and I give it credit for that. The thing about horror is that it has to be more than just eerie for me. I really like this article by Brandon Cornett that sums up the genre a little better, but essentially–horror needs to be something that’s both scary and takes the reader outside their comfort zone.
Now, there were a lot of fragmented sentences in this book so THAT was outside my comfort zone (lol) but that doesn’t necessarily define Lone Women as horror for me. I honestly felt like it read a lot more like historical fiction meets thriller, with a bit of fantasy vibes thrown in. I didn’t feel particularly *scared* at any given point.
That being said, I also didn’t feel like the horror aspect of this book really aligned with the historical aspects. I get it, it’s a fun play on a topic that might be outside the author’s wheelhouse, but I’m not sure that the demon–or “Elizabeth” (as we come to learn)–is a fully developed character. Readers don’t learn enough about the backstory of the demon, what Adelaide’s role in her life is, or even what she really IS. And, don’t get me started on the weird couple in the cabin at the end, the scene where someone drops gophers at the cave door, and/or the literal mention that she’s a dragon at the end. There’s SO MANY unconfirmed plot holes that just needed to be fleshed out better, at least for me.
But, it seems like that’s a trend throughout the book, as a whole. I struggled to visualize certain scenes and characters, like the Sterlings (who pop up randomly), while others–like Fiona–are well characterized. At times, I could visualize Adelaide’s cabin, but I struggled to put myself in her shoes as she walked throughout it. This very well could be my reading style versus the author’s writing style, but I do feel like there were scenes that were better written than others.
Yet, I still enjoyed Lone Women. This book is chock-full of history, and while I haven’t done my own research yet on the topic, I think that LaValle is on to something. I think it’s so intriguing that a black woman had the ability to live relatively equally on her own claim in Montana, where in other parts of the country this would be….well, very different, to say the least.
Lone Women is an interesting read, but it read more like historical fiction than horror to me. In fact, I question why this book was labeled as horror–it certainly reads more like a western thriller, in my perspective. Although there were aspects about it that frustrated me, I did enjoy this book and I think it’s a good entry book into the genre if readers aren’t sure if horror is the genre for them. This book doesn’t have any particularly gore-y scenes or disturbing language, like some other books I’ve read.
So, all in all, I’d rate this one maybe 3 1/2 stars for a horror book and 4 stars for historical fiction/thriller. I would recommend it to other readers, just don’t expect it to incite nightmares, if you like that sort of thing.
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