Review: Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryLarry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

This epic Western tells the story of a group of cowboys who decide to drive a cattle herd from the small town of Lonesome Dove, Texas, to the wilds of Montana. Leading the outfit are former Texas Rangers Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae, whose prowess in fighting Indians has made them legendary throughout the Wild West. They take a small group of cowboys with them on the journey, including several men who served with them when they were the only law in Texas. One woman also accompanies them, a prostitute named Lorena who has fallen in love with one of the cowboys. The book follows this group on its journey north, describing the various perils the cowboys meet along the way, including bad weather, hostile Indians, and a growing despair as they confront more and more suffering.

This is the first Western I’ve ever read, although I’ve seen and enjoyed several John Wayne movies. But I definitely think this was the right novel to start with, as it seems to encapsulate the entire scope of what a Western should be. I was especially impressed with the descriptions of the country, its weather and its wildlife. I honestly did feel transported to another place and time. The character development is also very well done; every person encountered in the book seems clearly delineated, with his (or her) own goals, fears, and desires. In a book this long, so much specificity is quite a feat! I especially enjoyed the depictions of women in the novel; I was amazed to think of what a hard life they must have had in such unsettled, lawless country. My one complaint about the book is that it’s extremely long, which made it hard for me to find the motivation to read it. It’s also quite heartbreaking in places…I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot of people die throughout the course of the novel. But overall, I was very impressed with this book and would definitely recommend it!