In the postwar American West, Mattie Ross is a girl on a mission: her father has been killed by one of his drunken hired hands, and she’s determined to avenge his death. Despite being only 14 years old, Mattie has utter faith in her own ability to achieve her goal. As she arranges her father’s burial rites, she demands to know the name of a U.S. Marshal with “true grit” — someone who will be able to hunt down her father’s killer and exact retribution. Thus Mattie sets out with Rooster Cogburn, who is technically on the side of the law but whose own past is murky at best, and a Texan cowboy named LaBoeuf, who is hunting the same man for a different crime, on a quest for justice and revenge.
Though I don’t normally read Westerns, I’m very impressed with the ones I’ve been reading this year! The best part of this book is Mattie’s voice, which is completely distinctive and very funny, often unintentionally. For example, here’s a tidbit in which Mattie asks the sheriff about the various U.S. Marshals who could help her:
The sheriff thought on it for a minute. He said, “…The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn. He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don’t enter into his thinking. … Now L.T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive. He may let one get by now and then but he believes even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake.” … I said, “Where can I find this Rooster?”
Another thing I found fascinating about this novel was its exploration of law in the Wild West. Near the beginning of the book, Mattie transcribes the trial of a man whom Rooster Cogburn had caught, complete with lawyers’ arguments and objections. It’s easy to see that, in the world of this novel, the law is largely ineffective and irrelevant to the men whose job is enforcing it. Perhaps that’s why Mattie feels such a strong urge to personally ensure that justice (as she sees it) is done. I’d definitely recommend this book as a quick, adventurous read that raises some thought-provoking questions.