April 15, 2013

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty

Never saw the show and I was never really a fan of Westerns in general.  But I was told this was an American classic, so I had to check it out for myself.  And I'm very glad I did.  This book just has a way of drawing you in.

Gus and Call run a small horse trading operation on the border of Mexico in Texas.  But after a friend of theirs stops by and tells of the wonders of Montana, they decide to take a herd of cattle up North and establish a ranch there.  But it's a long hard drive with many hardships.  They have to watch out for Indians, outlaws, weather, and ornery critters at every step of the way.  And then there's the personal drama with fights, love and hatred, which can sometimes be a greater hardship than the physical things.

Gus is a great character.  He's kind, jovial and just the type of guy you'd like to be around.  He's really the glue that holds the whole story together.  Call on the other hand, is just the complete opposite.  And I wasn't really interested in him or his story.  He was too dour for my tastes but I guess he had to be the solid one while Gus was off having a good time.  The women in the book, Lorena and Carla, were interesting characters.  It was nice to see that they had independent streaks and could take care of themselves for the most part.  Although Lorena's personality changed a bit on me.  There were plenty of other characters of course and too many good ones to mention them all by name.  They all worked together and you could really see the saga of this cattle drive through them.

This really was a saga.  For a book it was exactly like following a tv series that you enjoy.  You were always wanting to know what happened next and even at over nine hundred pages, it was hard to put down.  I wouldn't quite call it a soap opera, but there was a lot of drama.  The characters were always doing something you didn't want them to and yelling at the book didn't keep them from doing it.  I have to admit it was a very slow start and about fifty pages in I kept thinking, "why am I reading this?".  But I'm glad I stuck with it as I felt completely different by the end of the book.  I'm not in the habit of holding on to books anymore, but this one will earn a permanent position on my shelf.

It should be warned though that this is a Western and all it entails.  Cussing, violence, murder, rape, death scenes, and everything else you could imagine is in it.  McMurtry doesn't curb the description and the details to make the book tamer.  It really is Western wildness.  And like a good many Westerns, it doesn't look favorably upon minority races, although there were a few strong minority characters in the book.  Reader, you have been warned.

A very good book and one I can envision myself going back and reading again and again.  I'm eager to see the others in the series as well.

Lonesome Dove
Copyright 1985
945 pages

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