Lone Women

Lately I’ve been wanting to read some works by Victor LaValle, in particular his novel The Changeling. Instead, I started with his latest novel, Lone Women. Indeed, I was quite pleased when I was offered an advanced copy of it, and though I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was excited to dive in.

Special thanks to the publicists at Penguin Random House and One World Books and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!


Adelaide Henry has spent her full 31 years living with her parents on their farm in California. But after the murder of her parents, Adelaide sets fire to the only home she’s ever known and makes her way to Montana to start a new life. She has few possessions, most notably the large steamer trunk filled with something very heavy and very secret. Adelaide is one of only two Black women in her new rural Montana community, and though she makes some friends, she still feels like an outsider. Her deep, dark secret inhibits her, and the harsh weather as winter approaches makes life a daily struggle. Eventually, though, Adelaide’s secret will have to come out – no matter how it affects her community.


Lone Women starts with a bang: Adelaide’s parents are dead, and before people find their bodies, she must leave her family home in flames and flee California for a new refuge: Montana. Already, the book feels like a thriller and there’s an air of mystery about it: Did Adelaide murder her parents? Why? What’s in her abnormally heavy steamer trunk that’s she’s traveling with? Adelaide is a woman with secrets, and on her way to Montana, she meets others who seem to have secrets of their own: the Mudge family, consisting of a mother and her four blind teenage sons. When they disappear, Adelaide worries it’s her fault – again adding to the mystery.

Adelaide feels isolated for much of the book. Not only were her family considered “queer folk” where she grew up, she’s also now alone in a very rural area of Montana. Her closest neighbor is many miles away, and the nearest town is even farther out and quite small itself. Beyond the physical isolation, Adelaide is also guarding some secrets, making it hard for her to let anyone in. Eventually she does, and this leads to a theme that runs throughout the novel of found family and the importance of connection. Adelaide befriends Grace Price and her son Sam, as well as Bertie Brown (the only other Black woman around) and her partner Fiona Wong (herself Chinese-American). They make a solid friend group, though those bonds will be tested from time to time.

Even with that heartwarming aspect to Lone Women, the horror and thriller sides guide the tone. There are four sources of terror at play: the physical distance expanding around them; the harsh climate of a Montana moving into winter; the people stealing from, harming, and even killing Adelaide’s neighbors; and that deep, dark secret locked in Adelaide’s steamer trunk. Later, there’s another kind of evil our characters must battle. Some of the horror comes in the form of the “real,” while others are more supernatural in nature. It makes for a complex novel; Adelaide is battling terror on all fronts.

The story builds up slowly, gradually weaving in the unsettling and the monstrous. Themes of racism, identity, and loss of family also come into play, and even a ghost town – with literal ghosts – makes an appearance. Even with those darker themes, Lone Women is a quick-paced and easy read. Humor and the occasional anachronistic description by the narrator keeps it somewhat light and modern, despite its setting in 1915.

By the end, Lone Women highlights a powerful message of family and community. It’s equal parts horror and a tale of women finding a place in the world, no matter who tries to put up barriers around them.

Final Thoughts

Lone Women is an empowering novel about breaking free of the boundaries around you and building a sisterhood despite the horrors life throws your way. It’s a different kind of horror story than I’d expected, but one that I fully enjoyed. This was only my first time reading Victor LaValle, and I look forward to exploring his other novels and novellas.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy Lone Women here – it’s available as a hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

Lone Women by Victor LaValle
GenreHorror; Thriller
Number of Pages304
Format I Readebook (NetGalley)
Original Publication DateMarch 21, 2023

Official Summary

Blue skies, empty land—and enough room to hide away a horrifying secret. Or is there? Discover a haunting new vision of the American West from the award-winning author of The Changeling.

“If the literary gods mixed together Haruki Murakami and Ralph Ellison, the result would be Victor LaValle.”—Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See

Adelaide Henry carries an enormous steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. It’s locked at all times. Because when the trunk is opened, people around her start to disappear…

The year is 1915, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, and forced her to flee her hometown of Redondo, California, in a hellfire rush, ready to make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will be one of the “lone women” taking advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can cultivate it—except that Adelaide isn’t alone. And the secret she’s tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing keeping her alive.

Told in Victor LaValle’s signature style, blending historical fiction, shimmering prose, and inventive horror, Lone Women is the gripping story of a woman desperate to bury her past—and a portrait of early twentieth-century America like you’ve never seen.

About the Author

Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of two comic books Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER and EVE.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Shirley Jackson Award, American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens.

He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

He can be kind of hard to reach, but he still loves you.

More Books by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle - The Changeling
Victor LaValle - The Ballad of Black Tom
Victor LaValle - The Devil in Silver

More Books Like This

Winter Counts

It wasn’t until late last summer that I first heard of Winter Counts, the debut novel by David Heska Wanbli Widen. It was one of…

Rate this:


Ever since I first saw the cover for Veronica G. Henry’s debut novel, Bacchanal, I’ve been eager to read it. With Spooky Season well underway,…

Rate this:

The Ancestor

In spring 2020, one of my most anticipated books was The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni, a horror set in the Italian Alps. I’m always down…

Rate this:


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: