The Great American Novel. The story that Larry McMurtry crafts will take you on a journey. Undoubtedly the most outstanding character work I've ever read in a novel. This book is a masterpiece through and through.
Established in 1870s Texas, Larry McMurtry introduces us to the Hat Creek Cattle Company run by Augustus McCrae (Gus) Woodrow Call, Pea Eye, and Newt. The story kicks off when Jake Spoon, a former Texas Ranger, returns to Lonesome Dove (the town where the story begins) on the run after murdering a dentist (which he claims was an accident). Jake's return convinces Call to take their company and move it to Montana. Call has been longing for another adventure ever since his Texas Ranger days. The group decides they need to stock up on cattle so they plot to steal from a known Mexican rancher across the Rio Grande. After they stock up on cattle, the group sets off on their way to Montana. The group is also accompanied by a prostitute named Lorena who falls in love with Jake. What the crew doesn't know is that the brother of the dentist that Jake murdered is the town Sheriff (July Johnson). July becomes pressured by members of the town to go find the killer (he is in way over his head). A classic adventure story indeed.
Gus is portrayed as adventurous, loyal, and unable to tolerate silence. Call, in stark contrast to Gus, is stoic, quiet, and a natural-born leader. Calls morals are admirable, and later in the story he is tasked with tough decisions that thread the line between right and wrong. McMurtry really shines in not only the development of his primary characters but the development of his secondary characters. For example, Newt's coming-of-age story from a young boy to a vital member of the company is one to be remembered. Pea Eye's hard-working nature and loyalty to Call prove to be reliable later in the story. McMurtry develops Jake Spoon as a secondary antagonist in the novel. Wherever Jake goes, trouble ensues. Blue Duck, the Indian who is the main antagonist of the story, brings with him a mysterious and terrifying disposition. The atrocities that he commits in the story are unspeakable; even in the 19th century.
Lonesome Dove feels so real...so lived in. McMurtry does an outstanding job of detailing the real-life aspect of cowboys in the 1800s. McMurtry does not shy away from cruel or irregular aspects of the 19th century. This realism causes you to become engulfed in the story as you begin to care about the characters as if they were real people. Unfortunately, the novel can get extremely grim and depressing which can wear off on the reader. That is why I recommend reading the book in segments so you are able to digest each section of the story.
I personally have not read the prequel and the other books in this series, but after reading Lonesome Dove, I can not wait for the day when I am able to read the rest of the entries. There is a TV adaptation that I have yet to watch. All I have heard regarding the series is that Larry McMurtry felt that the show glorified the grim and depressing realities addressed in the novel. All I can say is that I personally have no desire to watch the TV series as I feel that the book is so thoroughly entertaining that a TV series could not top the level of depth that is present in the novel.
Words can not describe how much I recommend this book. If you have not read this book, I can confidently say that you are missing out on one of the greatest books in the history of literature. The world that McMurtry crafts in Lonesome Dove is like no other; his character work is phenomenal and the world feels detailed and lived in. So...what are you doing still reading this review! Go out and read Lonesome Dove!
Lonesome Dove By Larry McMurtry
Go Read It!