I read Gil Adamson’s The Outlander (2007) in February 2009, on my daily subway commute, and on the afternoon that I was nearly finished reading, I started a conversation about it with another commuter, who was also reading it. I waited until I’d moved towards the door, prepared to disembark at the next stop, before I remarked on the coincidence of our both reading this not-so-new Canadian novel, just a few seats apart—it was a short but enthusiastic conversation!
Overall, I read that book in a rush; I didn’t even stop to mark passages with flags, let alone take notes along the way. It reminded me of Jane Smiley’s The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (1998), and it satisfied an urge I didn’t know I had, for stories about adventuresome women in the west. Ridgerunner takes up after The Outlander has finished, when Mary and William have had a child, named Jack.
While the bulk of the novels longlisted for this year’s Giller Prize are character-driven, Adamson’s is plottier than most.
That isn’t to say atmosphere doesn’t rate, only that there are mysteries that readers hope to have resolved as they read on. The Ridgerunner being in constant motion, creates a sustained, underlying note of tension throughout. And the stakes are heightened when someone has “a conscience in working order” but it’s “labouring under the burden” of history.