The perambulations of a young woman across an austere landscape, knowing what she’s running from but fuzzy about what she’s running toward.
At the age of 19, Mary Boulton becomes a fugitive: The self-made widow killed her husband with his own rifle. This murderous act doesn’t occur in frustration or in rage but is done calmly, almost dispassionately, owing to a cumulative series of outrages in their brief marriage. The novel traces her journey across an early-20th-century landscape. Pursuing her are her two beefy twin brothers-in-law, who want revenge if not justice for the killing of their younger brother. Along the way Mary has several significant encounters, first with William Moreland, a self-sufficient frontiersman who readily admits he can’t put up with civilization. After their relationship heats up considerably, he leaves, Mary being almost more civilization than a body can stand. She continues west and temporarily settles in the forlorn mining town of Frank, where she meets up with the Reverend Bonnycastle, a limited but sincere minister. Their relationship is one of surrogate father-daughter. She also meets the requisite eccentrics, including McEchern, a dwarf who owns a small business but who makes most of his money through the sale of white lightning. Disaster strikes when a) Mary visits a mine closely followed by b) a rockslide that buries most of the town. It turns out that a woman in a mine is considered something other than an omen of good fortune. The narrative picks up steam as the twins finally catch word of Mary’s whereabouts and Moreland has a change of heart and decides that Mary is just what he needs to anchor him more firmly to his natural existence. At times the book reads almost like an allegory, for Adamson refers to her characters by abstractions like “the widow,” “the Reverend” and “the Ridgerunner.”
A lovingly crafted novel.