I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman
Pearl was supposed to go back to her fancy boarding school, but she met Frank first. He promised her dancing. Her mother didn’t like Frank, probably because of his reputation as a gambler. This did not deter Pearl though. She ran off and eloped with Frank, going to New Orleans, where she quickly found out that Frank was an abusive jerk. He found any excuse to hit Pearl.
Pearl had enough after one particularly rough beating and left. She hopped on a train with a hobo and lit out for other parts. She got a job singing, but that bastard Frank showed up again. For a while, she and he tried to make their marriage work. They ended up with two kids. When she parted ways with Frank, again, the kids went to her mother’s, who was thoroughly disgraced by Pearl’s life. Pearl went off and did other things.
She got jobs and then she robbed a stage-coach and got arrested. Having a woman robber was quite the sensation and Pearl got a lot of attention, but life was not easy in prison. She was alone much of the time, until a couple of other women prisoners showed up, having committed their own terrible deeds. Prison wasn’t easy, but Pearl found a way to make terrible things be to her advantage.
What I liked
While this book may be fiction, Pearl was real. Look her up on Wikipedia. She was a real, stage-coach robbing, gun-toting, hard woman. While it’s not exactly the ideal of what a woman should be, it’s pretty neat. She had the guts to dress up like a man, when that was highly frowned upon and then go rob somebody, which isn’t very nice.
The fictionalized story is fun. Pearl is what you would call a “spitfire.” She’s not going to let anybody get her down, although it may seem like life really sucks sometimes.
Despite the fact that she’s not role model material, I do find her admirable. She did things women didn’t do during the time period and made them work.
What I didn’t like
Pearl’s first husband sounded awful. In the book Pearl cites being Catholic for her reason not to divorce her abusive, scumbag husband. Look, I don’t care if you’re Catholic, a gypsy, Mormon, FLDS, a Baptist, or a Pastafarian–if your husband, or wife, is physically abusive, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. If they’re mentally abusive and refuse to see their abuse, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. Abusers tend to stay abusers. There’s no point in prolonging your suffering, and your children’s suffering, if there are any, because of a religious ideology. Sure, yes, marriage can be sacred, but that depends upon each party involved keeping their side of the deal, which happens to include not being abusive to your spouse and/or children.
In real life, Pearl seemed to go back to her husband multiple times, which is sad. He was a loser and here she was this tough woman who assuredly didn’t really need a man, especially an abusive one.
I admire Pearl’s escapades, but feel bad about her being married to a jerk.
Are female outlaws of the old west fascinating or deplorable?
Do you think Pearl lived her life of crime because of her abuse?