I received this book free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Penguin Publishing as an advanced reader copy.
The Untold by Courtney Collins is a lyrically haunting masterpiece of daunting proportions. It is unlike any novel I’ve read in recent memory and it drags you in by the heart and does not let you go. Her beautifully descriptive prose immerses you in the landscape and envelops you in misty mountains and forests and clear rivers. We are introduced to our narrator, a child whose life began too early and was blotted out in supposed kindness by its mother, Jessie. Jessie is a woman who has been hardened by a childhood of circus performing, time in jail and then a life with a man who blackmailed her into marriage. She is a horse rustler, a convict, but a strong woman more than anything. Through every mistake, ever hardship, Jessie seems to find the beauty and the intricacies in the life she had and the life she is striving so hard to find. She is running from the law, running from what she’s done though perhaps she is not so much sorry as she is relieved. We transition between the present and Jessie’s past – beautiful, haunting memories of a wild girl who cares for nothing and no one but herself and whatever horse she can manage to find. We follow her up a mountain, through her regrets and questioning herself, and through her looking death straight in the face. She does not run from her fate in the end, only moves towards it, confident in herself and the path she takes. And in the end, we find ourselves rooting for this outlaw when the end seems so imminent.
However controversial the voice of the narrator in this novel is, The Untold is nothing but addictive and inspiring. Our unlikely heroin Jessie endures more hardships than most men could handle, and seems to pull through them all by sheer force of will and tenacity. Collins writes exquisitely about this woman who would rather die than be forced into something or someone she is not, and makes us think about the sometimes blurred lines between right and wrong. Jessie refuses to be who the men in her life want her to be, and finds her own happiness, however far she has to travel to find it. This has quickly become one of my favorite books of this year, and a book I found I could not put down until I had finished it completely. There is a lingering beauty to this book that has stayed with me, and I cannot help but think that Collins has a classic on her hands. I think this is a fantastic book for book clubs and anyone who loves strong women and writers who draw you in and don’t let you go.