Outlawed by Anna North is a refreshing choice for book club. It’s set in the Wild West but it incorporates traditional themes of the Salem Witch Trials, making this novel something you’ve never seen before. This fun background gives way to a story that explores themes of gender, control, sexuality, and self-discovery, making it a great choice for your next book club. Use the following Outlawed Book Club Questions to lead your next discussion.
Start your discussion with the brief synopsis in our Outlawed Discussion Guide. After this, we offer ten questions and some selected reviews to help guide your discussion and ensure that your conversation about Outlawed covers all the salient points.
Once you’re ready for your next book, head to the end of this discussion guide for 3 more books like Outlawed.
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Outlawed, Anna North
In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.
The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.
She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.
Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.
10 Outlawed Book Club Questions
- What did you think of the blend between the Wild West and Salem Witch Trials? Do you think these two topics fit together?
- Outlawed takes place in the 1800s. If our current society started to experience a drastic drop in fertility like in the novel, do you think it would be handled differently? Or do you believe women would still shoulder the blame?
- Ada said, “I wished I could think of my own failed body with that kind of care. Instead, I was full of shame and fear.”
How is Ada’s statement ironic? Like Ada, do you find it easier to show others compassion than it is to show yourself compassion?
- The Hole in the Wall Gang created a society that defies traditional gender roles. Do you believe gender roles are important in our current society?
- Sheriff Branch admits to Ada that he knew she was not responsible for the miscarriages in the town, but he used her as a scapegoat anyway. Why was it important for the townspeople to have something to believe in and, therefore, someone to blame?
- “When people came to cast their stones and shoes and whatnot at Caroline, the women were twice as savage as the men. If it weren’t for the women, she might have survived.”
In what ways were women both the victim and the aggressor? Do you see similarities in our current society? How is this similar to scenes from A Handmaid’s Tale?
- Ada was outlawed because of her infertility, but other members of the Hole in the Wall Gang were outlawed because of their queerness. How could this be a metaphor for the way members of the LGBTQ community are treated? Or women who do not fit typical feminine stereotypes?
- What argument is Outlawed making about the representation of the queer community throughout history?
- Were you satisfied with the ending? What do you think is next for Ada?
- Did the novel end up being the story you expected? Why or why not?
Selected Reviews for Outlawed
“…I like weight and I like wild, and this book delivers both. I was so excited to see where this bizarre story was going – and I was shaking my head in awe as I witnessed this author’s huge imagination […] The story shines a light on bad things like homophobia, prejudice, and being shunned (and imprisoned or killed) for not conforming. But it also covers good things like the love within a gang of women, the determination to survive and flourish, and the search for answers.”
“…I was absolutely captivated by Ada’s narration and found myself completely immersed in the dystopian-esque world Anna North created… I loved the feminist themes and historical details, particularly the insights into early midwifery and medicine. And I adored Ada, a woman who, in a time when women had very few rights, forged her own path and fought for what she believed in.”
“Yikes. That was some tragically bad writing. I read a lot of westerns, and a western this is not. It’s more a poorly written self-discovery of a two-dimensional character surrounded by one-dimensional characters.”
“The concept of Outlawed is wonderfully creative […] The execution, however, left something to be desired. Falling flat from its initial promise, the novel is predictable and slow. There are too many characters, such that none of them make a particularly strong impression, and even the protagonist, a midwife, is lackluster and blank.”
3 Books like Outlawed
If you want more badass chicks bucking the law, try our discussion guide for Hang the Moon.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic novel that set the groundwork for many of the feminist novels we read today – Outlawed included. If you are exploring themes of women’s rights and gender power dynamics, it may be worth a re-read.
What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw, Leah Stewart
If you loved Outlawed because it was a story about finding yourself, you should read What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw. The novel follows Charlie Outlaw and Josie Lamar. Charlie runs from his newfound fame to a remote and dangerous jungle while Josie clings to her fading spotlight. Both characters struggle with finding a place in the world, just like Ada in Outlawed.
Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters
If you’re looking for another book that explores the complexities of gender and what womanhood means, your next book club book should be Detransition, Baby. Reese and Amy seemingly have the perfect relationship until Amy decides to detransition and become Ames, upsetting the balance in their relationship. Reese and Ames then become tied to Katrina, a woman pregnant with Ames’s baby.
Detransition, Baby tackles taboos of gender, sexuality, and relationships in a way similar to Outlawed.
When She Woke, Hillary Jordan
In this disturbingly dystopic near future, abortion has been so thoroughly outlawed that women caught having one are convicted of murder. Once they’ve done their time, they are “chromed”, which changes their skin color to red. The chroming ostracizes them in this fundamentalist society. The main character Hannah, has to deal with the aftermath of her chroming as she seeks away to escape the consequences.
Strong dystopic vibes like Handmaid’s Tale along with a dose of Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.
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