Booklist Reviews 2014 April #2
This moving debut novel was inspired by the life of Australian Elizabeth Jessie Hickman, a runaway convict born in 1820. In Collins' poetically reimagined tribute, 22-year-old Jessie is on the run after killing her brutal husband. She has recently given birth to a stillborn child whose spirit is somehow tethered to her mother and who narrates the story. Jessie has already lived a dramatic life; she once worked as a circus acrobat and then as a horse rustler but is now desperate to escape the posse of men who want to hang her for murder. While she runs, she thinks of her short, sweet relationship with the Aboriginal stockman Jack Brown, whose gentle ways were a welcome relief from the beatings administered by her drunken husband. She finds an idyllic camp in the mountains made up of desperate boys who steal horses and thinks she might finally have found a refuge, but the lawmen are not far behind. This intense read, with dark undertones of death and foreboding, contains breathtaking descriptions of the Australian bush and a lyrical homage to Jessie's desperate quest for freedom. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2013 December #1
Collins's debut offers a fictionalized account of real-life Jessie Hickman, a female bushranger and outlaw in 1920s Australia whose story as presented here ranges from the circus life to horse-stealing to imprisonment to forced marriage to fiery escape and endless pursuit, all told in extraordinary, toughly lyrical language. A female Cormac McCarthy? Get it.[Page 68]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
LJ Reviews 2014 April #1
Collins's gripping debut novel is based on a legendary wild woman who roamed a rugged valley in 1920s Australia. On the run after murdering her abusive husband, Fitz, 26-year-old Jessie delivers her baby in the woods and, without waiting for death to claim her frail infant, buries her and continues her flight. From the grave, the baby becomes the narrator of her mother's story. After serving two years for horse stealing, Jessie had gone to work as a horse wrangler for Fitzgerald Henry. He brutally mistreats her, so she defies him in the only way she can. Once Jessie is on the run, her ally and lover, Jack Brown, Fitz's aboriginal stockman, sees it as a sign that she is alive and well when a rancher reports 100 head of cattle missing. Jack seeks help from an unreliable local policeman, and together they set off to find Jessie before an outlaw band can get to her for the reward. VERDICT A fast-paced, heart-wrenching story that never loses speed, this extraordinary first novel is not to be missed. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/13.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO[Page 79]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2014 March #3
Broadly based on the life of Australian "wild woman" Jessie Hickman, Collins's debut novel ranges widely over the Australian frontier—and into one woman's dark and damaged heart. It's 1921, and Jessie's past may finally be catching up with her: having just given birth to a premature baby and killed her abusive husband, the young horse rustler, former circus performer, and ex-convict is impelled toward distant mountains, where she hopes to find safety, and possibly her lover. That lover, a black man named Jack Brown, has, however, developed an uneasy partnership with a police sergeant who may have his own history with Jessie. The harshness of the human and natural environment, as well as the prevalence of death in the bleak outback setting, is underscored by the narrator; Jessie's story is told by her dead child, speaking from her grave. "The earth buckles with the stories it holds of all those who have cried and all those who have croaked," remarks the narrator, and, indeed, Collins's poetic language and salty dialogue tell the story of a woman whose life is inextricable from the bleak landscape she not only traverses but also inhabits. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC