Book Review of The Outsider

The Outsider
The Outsider
Author: Penelope Williamson
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
For her latest western romance, Williamson (Heart of the West) adapts the recipe used in the John Wayne film Angel and the Badman (itself retooled for Harrison Ford in Witness): take one strong-willed, God-fearing Plain woman; add one worldly tough guy with a penchant for firearms; dramatize the difference between redemption and revenge; and stir. Time passes steadily with a "sweet sameness" for the hardworking Plain People in the Montana mountain valley where they raise their sheep, until one bleak late-winter day in 1886, when wounded gunslinger Johnny Cain staggers into widow Rachel Yoder's hay meadow, leaving a trail of bloody footprints. Rachel tends to the handsome stranger, who gradually recovers and seems to bond with Benjo, her stuttering nine-year-old son. Filled with "the smells of fried mush and blood," "the sour stink of sheep" and "the whispered perfume of apple blossoms," The Outsider contains plenty of details that nicely evoke the hardships of life on the frontier, along with the simple joys. Dialogue ranges from terse (Plain people aren't big talkers) to corny: "I know I'm nothin' but a worthless chippy, a whore, a tart, sportin' gal and fancy gal," says the town prostitute to the town doctor. The plot is unreservedly melodramatic, as some evil ranchers plot against the Plain people and Johnny and Rachel hem and haw their way toward consummating their forbidden love. But there are enough supporting characters and subplots to keep historical romance fans turning the pages all the way to the bittersweet ending, in which the relative merits of revenge and redemption come to somewhat of a stalemate.