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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

>> Friday, December 3, 2010

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Western
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 895
Challenges: none
Source: Purchased ebook

The Short Version:
An epic cattle drive from south Texas to Montana, but so very much more.

Why I Read It:
I’ve sort of wanted to maybe sometime read this book for ages and when a readalong with a pace of about 100 pages a week came along I decided to finally take the plunge.

The Book:
The central story is of two former Texas Rangers who decide to drive a herd of cattle from their little town of Lonesome Dove in the south of Texas to Montana in order to start a ranch in what may be the last untouched frontier in the country.

But oh, the book is so much more than that.

Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call have been friends, co-workers and business partners for thirty years. They’ve got a small group of men who work for them and the group is pretty much family for all of them. When Jake Spoon (another former Ranger) shows up, he’s on the run after accidentally killing a man in Arkansas. His tales of the beauty of mainly unsettled Montana pique Call’s interest and before long their Hat Creek Cattle Company is hiring more men and heading north with a herd of cattle.

Along with the story of the cattle drive are several additional plot lines. Lorena is the local prostitute who just wants to get out of Lonesome Dove and to San Francisco and when Jake Spoon says he’ll take her there, she finds herself trailing along with the cattle drive. July Johnson is a young idealistic sheriff from Arkansas who is chasing Jake because of the man he killed in Little Rock. July’s unhappy wife is searching for her own path to happiness which may or may not include her husband and child. Clara Allen (Gus McCrae’s former love) is now in Nebraska running a horse ranch with her husband.

All of these stories progress individually and intertwined as this magnificent story unfolds.

My Thoughts:
Why, oh why did I wait so long to read this book? Now, I can’t wait for The Hubster to read it because I have no doubt he’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

If you have avoided this book because you don’t like “westerns” toss that thought right out of your head. This book is an epic historical fiction story of a time and place that hasn’t existed for a long time. It captured me fairly quickly and even though there were a couple of points where I was ready to move along before the author was, it was truly a wonderful experience to read. It’s part adventure, part love story, part western, part heroic myth, part coming of age story and both funnier and sadder than I’d ever anticipated.

There are so many great characters in this book. Both the heroes and the villains are wonderfully written and there are a few who land in both of those categories. The women characters are obviously limited by the real roles of women in the American west at the time of the story. Yes there is the good hearted prostitute, the outlaw, the na├»ve young boy, the rancher’s wife, as well as the good and bad among both the Indians and the White men.

Gus and Call are like an old married couple. After being friends and partners for thirty years it fits and feels genuine. Call is quiet and a loner, but Gus is quick witted and cares deeply for those he loves. Many of the supporting characters are just wonderfully written and will stick around in my brain and my heart for a long time.

If you like sweeping historical fiction with a bit of danger and adventure as well as a bit of fun, then don’t be intimidated by the size of this book. It’s totally worth the time. Yes, there are some brutal parts, but life on the frontier was brutal at times. There are also parts that are incredibly beautiful, tender and heartwarming too.

Just read it. Trust me on this.

Rating 5/5


Beth F 12/03/2010 6:47 AM  

I knew you'd love it. And I'm in love with Gus.

Anna 12/03/2010 7:08 AM  

I'm one of those who doesn't like westerns, but your review has made me really interested in this book. After reading and loving Pemberley Ranch, I'm thinking I might actually enjoy stories like this. Thanks!

Marla,  12/03/2010 10:59 AM  

I'm not a western reader either, but Larry McMurtry became one of my favorite writers after Lonesome Dove and Texasville (not to mention Last Picture Show). He has such a way with memorable characters, whether historical or contemporary. They are not all Lonesome Dove, but it's definitely worth examining some of his other novels. Makes me want to go back and read them again.

Nicola 12/03/2010 2:40 PM  

I love this kind of western and this is one of those books I've always been meaning to read. Great review, you make me want to read it even more.

Eleanor 12/03/2010 5:13 PM  

I loved this when I read it years ago!

Bookfool 12/03/2010 7:49 PM  

Oh. So, I should actually dig out my copy of Lonesome Dove and READ it, this year? Not just leave it there to keep the shelf from floating away?

the Ink Slinger 12/03/2010 9:44 PM  

I've heard of this book... never read it though. Sounds good. I'll have to add it to my TBR list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word 12/04/2010 3:10 AM  

I've (of course) known about this book since I was a teen and saw part of the miniseries on tv. This makes me want to read it! (I clicked through from Semicolon).

Cindy Swanson 12/04/2010 8:21 AM  

My husband and father watched the mini-series of this on DVD one Christmas, and loved it...but I never thought I'd care about it because it was a western. This review definitely makes me want to read it!

Seth 12/04/2010 8:28 AM  

This just went on my TBR list. Loved the miniseries, and I actually like a good western, though I haven't read one in years.

Lexi 12/04/2010 5:23 PM  

I LOVED this book. I read all four in the tetralogy this year and they are staying on my shelf to be read again at some point. These books contained some of my very favorite characters of all time.

SuziQoregon 12/09/2010 9:08 PM  

BethF: and you were right - you know me so well.

Anna: One of the reasons I waited was because I'm not a big 'western' fan. But I read this more as historical fiction set in the American plains and loved it.

Marla: I'm pretty sure I'll be reading more of his books.

Nicola: you really should read it. I'm kind of sorry now I waited so long.

Eleanor: you really should have made me read this before now.

Bookfool: YES!!!

Ink Slinger: hope you read it and like it half as much as I did.

Amy: Oh I hope you do read it.

Cindy: If I can convince anyone to read it, then I'll consider this review to be a success.

Lexi: After reading this I'm seriously considering reading the rest of the books.

Teddy Rose 12/09/2010 9:12 PM  

I was never crazy about western movies but I think I would like this book. It hadn't even crossed my mind to read it until I read this review. I added it to Mt. TBR.

SuziQoregon 12/21/2010 1:34 PM  

TeddyRose: I really do think you'd like it. Hope you decide to give it a try.

Inside A Book 12/28/2010 9:40 AM  

I'm late to the show on this one, but it is one of my all-time favorites. I listened to it in audio fashion and the reader was outstanding! He became Gus for me. Thanks for sharing this great reminder of a great book!
Happy New Year!

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