Lone Women hits the ground running with a fascinating opening set-up. And though it occasionally loses its way, it is, for the most part, an eerie, eldritch, compelling tale that winds its way through a handful of different genres, refusing to be limited to any single obvious, predictable narrative.
I wish there was a shade more cohesion from beginning to end, though, especially with the conclusion, but I loved seeing glimpses of so many different lives and souls, all drawn in one way or another to this inhospitable region, all fighting for survival - of one sort or another.
I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing a digital copy of this novel. Adelaide leaves California for Montana along with her steamer trunk in an attempt to start a new life and forget her past. There lies a secret that she keeps and this is slowly revealed. The secret contributes to the horror elements of this novel. She uses the secret to face those that have wronged her, including a group of criminal brothers. the story is parts redemption, parts revenge story. I enjoyed many of the reveals. The author uses the horror aspects quite effectively. This was a solid read.
To me this wasn't horror. Maybe historical with a fantasy twist? Paranormal addition to historical? So hard to genrify. I did love Adelaide's story though, and how we slowly learned more and more about the monster. I did think the ending wrapped up a bit too nicely--her sister ends up playing with the children at the end? All she needed was loved? Really? The whole Mrs .Mudge/boys/murdering thing was just weird. They washed sheets in kerosene? How did they smoke in bed at the hotel? "I came here with my sister." Loved how all the women came to live in Two Sisters, Montana.
Very good book. I liked the style of writing as well as the story, which got intense at times. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher.
This book had me on the edge of my seat the ENTIRE time I was reading it. I love a good story about hidden family secrets and Victor LaValle did not disappoint!
When you read this story, you will encounter multiple POVs. The short chapters will you a sense of urgency that the Main Character feels as she moves along her journey. This story is set in the historical time period where women were considered the weaker sex and did not have rights. However, the Main character, Adelaide knew that the only way for her to survive was to conquer the unconquerable. This is a story that you have to sit down and fall into. The author does a fantastic job storytelling and all the details they share throughout the story help the reader live out Adelaide's journey.
If you are looking for historical gothic horror, grab this book as fast as you can!
I wanted to like this one but it was a struggle. I didn’t enjoy or relate to any of the characters. Thanks for the review copy.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started Lone Women and I'm glad I didn't. I think if I knew what was hiding in the trunk I would have skipped it and that would have been a shame. This was a page turning read for me and very well written.
I really enjoyed the setting and atmosphere of this book. I would say the book has horror elements but never once was it scary. It felt more like a horror book commenting on social aspects than a straight horror. That is not to say it didn't work or that I didn't enjoy it. I enjoyed the glimpses into the other characters that we got but I do wish we had a little more backstory and insight into them. It may have worked better as a story told from switching perspectives than the narration style it went with. Overall I did enjoy the concept and most of the execution.
I was invited to read this book because I had enjoyed another book of what we are calling Magical Suspense (Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson.) I had, frankly, forgotten about it until I reviewed my “to be read” list and realized I had missed it.
The parts of me that are haunted by nightmares and a vivid imagination may wish I had left it on the shelf, but the part of me that loves good storytelling, historical fiction, strong women characters, and creativity appreciates that I did not.
The story is set in the early 1900s American west. Adelaide, the protagonist is a thirty-year-old black woman who’s been raised on a fertile plum farm in an all black agricultural community in California. Adelaide must leave California alone and based on an article she’s read about homestead land in Montana, which is open both to “lone women” and black people, she sets Montana as her new destination.
All she brings with her are a travel bag, and a huge, heavy, locked trunk. The perils she encounters trying to move the trunk from the train station to the ship to the wagon that will take her to Montana make the reader frustrated. What is in that trunk?
And then we find out. The contents will hover over the reader and Adelaide as she finds her new home, settles in, and even makes friends. But some secrets just won’t stay locked away.
TW: there is a significant amount of blood in this book, so if that makes you queasy, you might skip this one. It is “magical suspense” but could easily be classified as horror as well. That said, it is a quick read, and had much to say about the hardiness of frontier women.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for this review copy. The book was published March 28, 2023.
Historical horror with a touch of magical realism? Absolutely, yes! The characters are well developed and dynamic, the atmosphere is haunting and expansive. There are some scenes in the book that are now hard wired into my brain - I cannot stop thinking about them. There were a couple moments where the pacing felt a little off to me but it didn’t take me out of the story whatsoever. This is a book I would read again in the future and recommend to friends. I can’t wait to read more from this author!
I sort of put off reading this book cuz of all the hype that was surrounding it, but I get it now. And honestly I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner. It has so many things that I love in a book. Historical timeline, strong women, the supernatural, feminism, and a really cool setting. I love how diverse and open-minded the cast of characters were especially considering the timeline, perhaps that was the most magical part of the book. I don't want to really give anything about the plot away because they're quite a few little interesting choices that the author made that really added so much to the story but I will say it was very well thought out and very well written. I do wish that the more climactic scene towards the end of the book would have been more detailed/gory, but that's personal preference. I also really really like how although the creature / beast was described and implied to be one thing it was also given the space within the story to be multidimensional and multifaceted and the fact that there was a character growth within the story is fascinating to me. The story that we start with is not the one that we end up with and I loved it.
Eee! This was so cool - such an interesting blend of genres. Going to be recommending this one for a while!
Thanks to NetGalley and Publisher for e-ARC.
Victor LaValle has a talent take ideas that have been done before and make them wholly original. In Lone Women, we start by following a black woman name Adelaide in the early 1900s, covering up the death of her parents and fleeing west for safety. It's hard not to immediately make assumptions of what has happened and what type of story this is, but rarely are LaValle's stories straight forward, at least at the start. In fact, I think the mystery of what all is going on is one of the best traits of this book. While Adelaide is the central character, the story expands as it goes on to include a wider perspective of the characters on the periphery of the story. It creates a series of compelling characters, perhaps with room for a bit more depth, but overall it contributed to my enjoyment of the book. The writing is engaging and the story immersive, so much so that it was hard not speed through this book as fast as I could.
For those curious about the "kind" of story this is, I recommend going in blind because the mystery is so much fun, and I recommend stopping here until you've read the book as spoilers follow. The story feels like a new take on Beowulf, with a focus on Grendel, aka the monster (similar to the poem Grendel by John Gardner). It forces the characters, and us the reader, to second guess our assumptions about the creature. That theme fits into the larger structure as well as LaValle, I think intentionally, sets up the story in a way that misleads the reader into making false assumptions about the characters and whats happening. While many of the mysteries remain open, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and what it had to say.
Adelaide is running from something. 1915, she carried a heavy, locked trunk and ran away from California to Montana. What’s in that trunk might be terrifying, but so is the land she’s rushing to claim.
My biggest problem with this book is that I came in thinking it was a horror story, which it was for the first part, but then switched to straight historical fiction with sci-fi elements. I was thrown off by the fact that I went from fearing this creature to having to accept it. This book examines how hard it was to be a woman during this time and how best it was to help each other. But then it juxtaposes a creature who kills people with a woman who is helping her trans child, and the parallel feels off.
Honestly, it was very well down for being about an alone woman having to survive with the help of other disadvantaged women. I only wish I didn’t remember that blurb when I started reading.
This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.
After reading "The Ballad of Black Tom" by the author, I've been wanting to try more by him.
The premise was intriguing and I was fully invested... until the end of part 1. I lost interest afterwards. I'm not the biggest horror reader so it might be on me. I'm planning on reading more by him so we'll see.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for honest feedback. An incredible blend of horror and historical fiction
FANTASTIC! And what a great ending!!!!
I can see this one becoming a movie. Great stuff. The trunk! Adelaide - such a strong woman. I loved it.
Adelaide is on her way to Montana. She heard any person that is able to cultivate a property will then become owners of that property. As a single black woman this is a unheard of chance. She is also running away. Her parents are dead, she puts them in their bed and burns down the house. Traveling with a trunk and a secret.
The town seems welcoming but there are still rules and classism.
I was hoping for something more in the trunk, with the being surviving bullets, the harsh Montana winter, and having claws that can tear through flesh. There may have been more metaphorical context, but I'm not trying to dissect a book in English class.
There are the realistic treats of a woman and her sons hunting and stealing what they want and trying to survive in a cruel climate and without resources except for those you create.
I thought so much more could have been done with surviving in a new area and the strength of Adelaide and the town people that help her.
This book was not at all what I expected and I feel like it fell short of the “horror” aspect I was anticipating. The mystery of what was in the trunk kept me intrigued, but the ending felt rushed and somewhat disjointed. I’m didn’t exactly dislike the book, but I didn’t love it either.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I was so excited for this latest release from Victor LaValle that I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations. It exceeded them and more! A true gothic horror set in the sparse and desolate Wild West, this story was lovely in a devastatingly eerie way, and there are a few expertly handled twists that make the reader's heart stutter with each reveal. A book horror fans will read again and again.