A big family, a reading addiction, and the occasional celebrity scandal are the ingredients of life that create one woman's opinion on just about everything.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Outsider by Penelope Williamson

The Outsider by Penelope Williamson
Warner Books
August 1997

I will probably regret not saving this for Keishon's TBR Challenge next week since it's a historical and from my TBR, albeit a very recent addition. However, I read this very rich and very satisfying historical over the weekend and wanted to share my thoughts right away.

One of the things I was aware of immediately was how much I've become accustomed to getting the bare details of characters before being plunged into their story. If you like to know about the details of a character's life you'll love this book. Don't get me wrong, it's not bogged down in description or minutiae, but there's a richness and texture to the story I rarely see any more.

The time and place is the late 1880s in Montana. A widowed woman and her son find a severely wounded man in their meadow and go about the formidable task of saving his life. The widow, Rachel Yoder lives the Plain life. The wounded man is Johnny Cain, a self professed killer for hire.

Rachel is a woman happily cocooned living her Plain life with her 10-year old son. She has been widowed a year and knows it only makes sense to choose another husband soon to help her raise her son and run the sheep farm. Johnny Cain is a man with no roots, no feelings, and no intention of having either. He does not believe in anything and trusts no one.

I thought it was astonishing how unapologetic Ms. Williamson is about Johnny Cain. There is no overnight metamorphisis here. This is a man who is a killer. Johnny Cain is not suddenly saved or changed in this story. In fact at times she made her task of making this a sympathetic character so formidable I began to wonder if someone else would emerge as the hero.

These two people could not be more different, but over the course of the book they both discover a lot about themselves and each other. This journey, or discovery, was riveting for me. It wasn't hard to put myself into the story and wonder, 'what would I do?' Would I have that little faith? That much faith? That strength? That much ruthlessness?

I was captured completely by this book and resented every minute I couldn't be reading it. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I have a few slight complaints about some of the roads she traveled with a couple of the secondary characters and wonder why she did it, but other than that I think this is my first 'A' read of the year.

If you like multi-layered stories, westerns, complicated characters, you'll love this one.

My Grade = A-

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Anonymous Mollie said...

I watched the movie version of this on the Hallmark channel after seeing it praised by another blogger (me thinks it was Kristie(j)??!). Been meaning to put it on reserve at the library!

6:22 AM PDT  
Blogger nath said...

Interesting review. I've never heard of this book and now, I read Mollie's comment - there's a movie?!?! LOL :)

Seems like you got your hands on a gem, Rosie :)

7:04 AM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Mollie, hey girl! Yes, it must have been Kristie because that's whose name I have on my list for the recommend. She's also the one who's mentioned the movie. Although I can't imagine them cramming this whole book into a 2 hour movie. I'm almost afraid to find out what it's like.

Nath, I really liked it. I know westerns aren't everyone's cuppa, but this really is a very well done book.

7:16 AM PDT  
Blogger Lori said...

Oh, oh, oh.... western? complicated? unapologetic killer hero? me likey! thanks, rosie!!!!

7:35 AM PDT  
Blogger Wendy said...

The movie stars Tim Daly and Naomi Watts. I've heard it's good, but haven't seen.

I won't tell you how long this book has been in my TBR. It's shameful. Every January I tell myself that "I'm gonna read it this year" and then I get side tracked.....

9:21 AM PDT  
Blogger Renee said...

I've heard about this book somewhere (probably Kristie's, of course!) At the time I was intrigued, but not enough to add it to the booklist.

However, lately I've been reading/thinking about/appreciating it when an author writes a morally conflicted hero, and doesn't convert them the moment they meet the heroine (or if they are the heroine, they don't convert because the book is about them.)
It's a much more interesting process for the reader to come to understand the questionable character thru the events of the book. And, maybe a little redemption for the hero, but not so much he's unrecognizable by the end.

"I was captured completely by this book and resented every minute I couldn't be reading it."
Ooh, I love/feel guilty when I feel like that! Like I'm a naughty mom, but I still want to get back to the damn book anyway! :-)

Great review, Rosie!

10:31 AM PDT  
Anonymous Keishon said...

Well, Rosie, I await your review on my absolute favorite book by her, HEART OF THE WEST. I simply adore Penelope Williamson. Great writer who writes with some heat, too. I haven't read outsider yet but I will, wonderful review.

7:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Lori, yes, yes, yes! It's good. I hope you read it so we can talk about it.

Wendy, Tim Daly? Really? I so don't see him as Johnny Cain. Nope. Naomi Watts as Rachel I can see but Tim Daly... *heavy sigh*

Renee, this is not run of the mill. Good book.

Keishon, I have HEART OF THE WEST and read it years ago. So long ago, in fact, all I remember is how much I liked it and not a shred more of the story. Pitiful, isn't it? Maybe before the year is out I'll read it for Nath's Re-Read Challenge.

11:32 PM PDT  
Blogger Kristie (J) said...

Yes, yes!!! It was me. I love this book and I equally love the movie. They leave some things out of the movie of course due to size and time such as the secondary love story between the doctor and the madame. They stick mostly to Johnny and Rachel/Rebecca (for some reason they changed the name in the movie) but what they did leave is wonderful!! It's a very haunting, very beautiful movie from a fabulous book.

9:37 PM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Kristie, they changed her name to Rebecca? I don't get that. Wow! Maybe they thought Rachel was too Jewish?? Whatever it's sort of dumb. As I mentioned in an earlier comment I can totally see Naomi Watts as Rachel, but even though I like Tim Daly in general, I don't see him as Johnny Cain at all. I don't see that ruthless edge and the cold shuttered emotionless side of Johnny in him.

11:50 PM PDT  
Blogger Kristie (J) said...

"but even though I like Tim Daly in general, I don't see him as Johnny Cain at all. I don't see that ruthless edge and the cold shuttered emotionless side of Johnny in him."

Then you just need to watch it 'cause he does a fiiiiiine job of it ;-) heh heh heh!
I'm not sure why they changed names in the movie - though I think it's more the case not to confuse her with Rachel in the movie Witness with Harrison Ford - which has some similarities. They also changed Johnny's last name too - from Cain to Gault

1:47 PM PDT  

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