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Book Review: The Wild West, monsters, and feminist homesteaders in "Lone Women"

I’m a sucker for female-centered horror novels and movies; Victor LaValle’s newest book, “Lone Women,” takes feminist horror to a new level.

A blend of feminist horror, thriller, historical fiction, and women’s fiction, “Lone Women” paints a brutally evocative portrait of a woman fleeing death and the horrifying secret locked in her steamer trunk. Set in 1915, Adelaide takes advantage of the Montana government’s offer of free land to those who can successfully live off it like many other ‘lone women’ before her. The only difference between her and the other ‘women’? Well, she didn’t come to Montana alone––the steamer trunk she lugs around holds her dark sin and is why she fled California. But nothing can stay locked away for long, and eventually, Adelaide’s secret unleashes itself upon her community, but it might be the only thing that’ll help her survive.

The writing style is a triumph all on its own. Atmospheric and compelling from the first page to the very last, LaValle somehow Stockholm Syndrome’s readers into rooting for the monster, whomever you believe it is. And the prose, oh, the prose, is as unique and dark as this novel. LaValle doesn’t mince his words about the hardships, racism, and sexism of the Wild West, either.

Due to the bouncing perspectives, the pacing is slightly off-kilter, especially in the middle portion of the novel when Adelaide’s sin is revealed. Yet, I couldn’t seem to put “Lone Women” down and devoured it in a matter of days because of LaValle’s compelling writing and his ability to consistently drive suspense from the book's first paragraph.

Vivid, heart-pounding, and deliciously vengeful, “Lone Women” delights and terrifies with every twist LaValle masterfully crafts. Undoubtedly, “Lone Women” will be a timeless staple of feminist horror.

This ARC was provided by One World and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Follow @bergreadstoomuch on Instagram for more!

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