Sunday, October 16, 2011


The author is a poet (*Primitive*, 1991 and *Ashland*, 2003), and some of the language makes me a bit envious, wishing I'd written it myself. It never sounds as good out of context, but here's some excerpts: "the horses began to walk alert, their ears scissoring with curiosity"; "the ground around them [was] poxed with fallen fruit that lay in layers of years, squelching beneath the horses' hooves"; he had a "look on his face that would etch glass." Much of it made me want to reread the lines for their sound and freshness.
But the plot felt thin to me. A woman kills her husband (he's unambiguously rotten; he abandons her on their honeymoon night to gamble, losing $50 and a watch, and then cheats on her); and his two brothers chase her through the West in 1903. That's the story. In the wilderness, she meets a man who takes care of her and sleeps with him; she meets a man who takes care of her and then meets his wife; she meets a man who takes care of her and moves in with him. (The narrator recognizes the repetition: "Here she was, wandering behind a man again.") Finally she gets caught by the two brothers. Breaks out of jail. Hooks back up with man #1.
There's plenty of tension in the "chase" narrative ... I (for one) know those frightful nightmares of being chased by someone who comes closer and closer and nearly nabs me. But aside from the fact that she's not very good with horses or snares, we don't know much about the widow Mary. Maybe that's why I just didn't care that much about her, whether she lived or died, whether she was caught or not. Another reader might feel differently, maybe especially if they like stories set in the American West at the turn of the century.
But this was Adamson's first novel, and I would give her next one a look.

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