by Larry McMurtry
I first read this book probably 25 years ago, and for all these years it has stood out in my memory as the best book I’ve ever read. Of course, over those years, I’ve read many, many other books – including many excellent books, and over time I’ve often wondered if Lonesome Dove would still hold up if I reread it. Despite how much I remember loving it, I do have a hard time making myself reread books, as there are so many unread books yet to read! Still, I finally dug out my old paperback copy and delved in. I was not disappointed.
At 858 pages, it’s too big a story to offer any details – and I don’t think I could do it justice. In a nutshell, it’s the story of Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae, two middle-aged former Texas Rangers, basically retired and living in a “little fart of a town” in post-Civil War south Texas, who impulsively decide to undertake a cattle drive up to the virgin pastures of Montana. Filled with characters so vivid you could almost hear their voices and smell the dust and sweat of them, it is a sweeping, epic masterpiece story of the wild and unbroken frontier of the American West.
Yeah, it’s a western. Filled with cowboys and Indians, outlaws and lawmen, heroes and villains, ladies and whores – and plenty of adventure and tragedy. I was absolutely transported to a different time and place – so much so that I was often dreaming of cattle drives at night. I was struck by how horrifically hard life was in those times – and yet, in some ways so much simpler than now. People lived and died as they pleased – there was of course a code of honor, and propriety, but … much of the pettiness and materialism and anxiety over a million things that modern life has brought us was absent.
I cried almost ceaselessly through the last 75 pages or so, and it’s one of those rare books that just leaves me feeling like I’m not going to get over it anytime soon.
To be able to write like this … to imagine a story and put it to paper, a story that truly takes on a life of its own and evokes such emotion – what a gift. What power! I am awestruck.
I absolutely love this book, and it remains the best book I’ve ever read.