Prophet Annie

Author: Ellen Recknor
Published: 1999

Mood: I guess if you’re a creepy old dude who likes reading about other creepy old dudes getting to be creepy AF.

Prophet Annie was one of my thrift store book rescues

It’s a good thing I now live an hour from the nearest animal shelter, and three hours from the nearest Value Village, because this is what I do. My heart aches for unwanted creatures and inanimate objects alike, and I want to give them a home.

Sometimes it works out, and I add a shiny new Western favourite to my collection. Other times, I find myself saddened and disgusted by a dud like Prophet Annie

TW: sexual assault (it’s a big part of why I didn’t like the book, so I had to write about it).  

photo of the Prophet Annie book leaning against the top of a John Deer tractor tir

Prophet Annie takes place in 1881, starting in Arizona then venturing off to the East Coast and Midwest states. 

It’s the story of a young woman named Annie who lives under the thumb of a mean-tempered mama. She does everything she’s told, including when her mom kicks the bucket and literally wills her to a rich old guy – we’re talking in his late 70s – as a ripe young virgin bride (she’s not a virgin, but that’s beside the point). 

On her wedding night, the old geezer dies mid-coitus, and his spirit gets trapped in her body. She’s then basically forced to do everything he wants, including take care of his cranky old sisters and let him use her body for whatever he wants. 

The old man, Jonas Newcastle, can paralyze her and take over her body, speaking through her and using her limbs for hours on end. Word travels fast about Annie, because Jonas is actually in limbo in a room containing the works of all of the world’s greatest thinkers, past, present, and future. So the shit he says is a big deal, and people start gathering to hear it. 

Annie gets a job as a ‘prophet’ with a traveling show, to earn money for those sisters of his. But along the way she meets a ‘saddle tramp’ stage robber and instantly falls in love. Will she ever see him again? Will she ever be free of her creepy old geezer ghost?

illustration of a fancy moustache

I wanted to like this book. I TRIED. 

The worst part is that I don’t even hate it – it just grossed me out so much from the get-go that I fell asleep every time I opened it. Not because I was tired, but because my brain took one look at what was on the next page and was like NOPE.

I love a good paranormal Western, and the premise of Prophet Annie had promise (try saying that ten times fast). 

There’s just nothing good enough here to balance how much it makes my skin crawl

At first I enjoyed Annie, because her rough and self-deprecating narrative reminds me of the heroine Jacky in the brilliant Bloody Jack series. The writing is actually good; that’s not the problem.

My major f*cking beef with this book is that the reader is presented with this young woman who thinks it’s her obligation to let an old man ‘do his business’ with her, as she did her previous short-lived husband. And THEN when the old f*cker dies and possesses her body, she thinks it’s his RIGHT to seize control of her body, despite her repeated pleas to stop, and to have his way with her (using her hands) several times a week. 

SO. F*CKING. GROSS. 

It’s told in an offhand, funny way. Like we’re not reading about the ghost of an old man forcing this young woman to masturbate for him. Like she doesn’t say many times that she’s afraid of what he could do to her. 

Annie eventually likes Jonas and wants him around. She even begs him to return when he’s gone. And because she’s started yelling at people when she’s upset, we’re supposed to be so happy that she grew a backbone that we forget about all those sexual assaults. “He helped her grow!” Um, f*ck no.  

Like, even the text on the cover of the book is so, so wrong. “In the untamed West, a lone woman’s late husband becomes her hope for the future.” WTF!

I’m not naïve; I know that husbands pretty much owned their wives back then, and women did just lie back and take it, thinking sex was just like that. I guess what I’m saying is it was just too hard to ‘enjoy’ following this ambitious, passionate young woman as she ‘learns’ to appreciate her abuser.

Jonas is a piece of work, and so are his sisters. The only good character who gets more than one chapter of pagetime is Sam Two Trees, a half-Navajo man with an exceptional talent for French cooking. I would actually read a spinoff book about Sam’s adventures, he seems like a really cool character on his own. 

Sam is smart, compassionate, and multi-talented. He’s also a subtle gay character in a Western that never uses the fact that he’s gay to further the story (not that anything could elevate this travesty). 

illustration of a fancy moustache

Maybe there’s supposed to be a lesson here. Maybe there are several lessons. The topics of racism, emotional abuse, classism, and prejudice against people who don’t look like you are all covered at great length. They’re even written well! Ellen Recknor is a GOOD writer, and I’ve put another of her books on my wishlist.  

I just can’t get past all the love for this creepy, lecherous old man-ghost. It makes me want to barf. 

Prophet Annie is back in my donation pile, ready to move on to its next home. Maybe someone else will find it entertaining. I sure as f*ck did not.