Lone Women by Victor LaValle

A multifaceted horror/western/feminist/gender identification story this is a disturbingly potent narrative of a woman fleeing a curse and seeking peace. Along the way she finds purpose and fulfillment.

Lone Women by Victor LaValle
One World
Hardcover | $27
Buy at Bookshop.org

Feminist novel, musing on gender identification, western, horror story or all the above. This eerie tale is deftly told with a clear, brisk style that belies any negative connotation any of these categories may imply. It is not strident in its feminism but rooted in reality. There is no frenzy in pondering gender but simply addressing the issue. It is set in the new old west (1915) but is in no way a shoot-‘em-up or horse opera. It contains classic elements of horror stories but transcends the usual splatterfest to achieve an entirely literary level. And it is profoundly creepy.


We first meet Adelaide Henry, descendant of freed slaves living in an all-black community in California standing before her bloodied parents in a house torn apart. She covers them reverently, packs her things, secures a steamer trunk firmly with a sturdy lock, douses the house with gasoline and sets it afire. She embarks on a flight from the only home she’s known to the wilds of Montana where she will try to establish a homestead far from her troubles. She’s brought the troubles with her, though, hidden in the trunk. Whenever it is opened people disappear.


An entirely disturbing story that rivals any Stephen King tale in both terror and ingenuity, the narrative draws the reader into vacillating states of empathy for and revulsion of Adelaide and her demon. Along with a cast of characters each with her own difficulties and struggles, she finds a way to reconcile family curses and societal disdain. Often encountering racial prejudice and misogyny, sometimes manifested violently, she nonetheless perseveres in her quest for peace and justice. Discovering unlooked for help she provides aid to others with problems, perhaps not as unsettling as her own, but certainly dire. She is courageous, persistent and generous. The reader will be on her side though it all.