Lonesome Dove: Part 2

This is not a formal review of Lonesome Dove, meaning this post CONTAINS SPOILERS!  I thought these posts would be a great way to check in every 200-300 pages to recap the action and my feelings on it. This post is dedicated to Part 2.

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Once again, let’s start with a summary: This section really builds the story through the addition of the Arkansas crew. July Johnson, the sherriff of the Arkansas town where Jake Spoon killed a man, takes off from town to pursue justice. Followed shortly by his wife, Elimira – but in another direction. Then his deputy Roscoe is sent to let July know the news. So all of a sudden this whole cast of characters, as well as the crew from Lonesome Dove, are out on the planes. A lot happens: Lorena is kidnapped, Gus saves her, Roscoe is killed, Jake falls in with a bad crew, and Gus and the crew hang Jake. Wow.

Off the bat, I was surprised that there was a new cast of characters! I had just spent 280 pages getting in to the  Lonesome Dove crew! The new crew was interesting – brought a little comic relief if not much else. I ended up enjoying their chapters a lot since it was something a little different from what I was used to.

Particularly compared to Part 1, there is a lot more violence in this part. I’ve actually noticed that now when I’m out in regular society, I half expect everyone to be a gun wielding cowboy ready for a fight. Related: I’ve been listening to a lot more country music recently. Coincidence?

Newt remains a favorite character, although he has a smaller role than I expected him to have.  He seems to be the token relatable character, always saying what I would say. He’s frankly just not that invested in the horse business and not willing to accept things the way they are. I appreciate his commentary.

To touch on some of the action – Lorena being kidnapped and being forced to ride across the horse while tied at the ankles to the horse was absolutely horrific. That being said, I have to give credit to the writing, because this part was so vivid. The scene with Jake Spoon’s death was certainly surprising – I definitely didn’t expect them to really kill him. He got himself in a pretty bad situation with those band of brothers.

Despite all the plot advancements, geographically, it didn’t feel like they made much progress. I felt like they were constantly nearing the northern border of Texas. I did a quick google search, and there are heaps of maps of their route, but I quickly looked away to avoid spoilers of Part III. I can’t wait to check out the maps when I finish to see how everything is laid out.

One thing that makes this book stand out – and also makes it so long – is that no character is ever forgotten. Most books follow the story of one group, and other people can come and go, but McMurtry follows each character and story line wherever they go. Only now that Roscoe, Wilbarger, and Jake Spoon are dead will we, the readers, be finished with them. A huge factor in this is McMurtry’s skill with the third person omniscient style. He moves between points of view, even within the same paragraph or small section of a page, without it feeling confusing.

On a personal note, I loved that they went through Aiblene, Kansas! My boyfriend and I stopped there on our cross country road trip last year to see the house where President Eisenhower grew up and his Presidential Library/Museum. It was a really beautiful house and property, and the Museum talked about how Aiblene was on the cattle ranchers route heading north from Mexico. Now I feel like I’m experiencing it!

Overall, I’m liking this book. It’s long, but that’s kind of the joy of it. I’ve been reading this book for so long, just hanging out with my cowboy friends on the planes and I am here for it! Here’s to Part III!

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Lonesome Dove: Part 1

This is not a formal review of Lonesome Dove, meaning this post CONTAINS SPOILERS!  I thought these posts would be a great way to check in every 200-300 pages to recap the action and my feelings on it. This post is dedicated to Part 1.

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Let’s dive right in with a quick summary: In Part I, we meet the crew from Lonesome Dove, which includes Augustus McCrae, Captain Call, Deets, Newt, Jake Spoon, Dish Boggs, and others. We establish that they are former cowboys, but currently cattle ranchers living in Texas, near the Mexican border. When Jake Spoon returns, after being away from the town for nearly twenty years, and suggests that the crew journey to Montana, the crew starts to mobilize to begin the trip.

My Thoughts:

The start of Lonesome Dove was.. good! It feels very introductory and set-up-y but I do have good feelings for where it’s going. Normally if I’m not well in to the story by page 100, I don’t have high hopes for the rest, so the fact that I read 228 very dense pages and still have hope for the rest says a lot.

One thing I was worried about in this book were the amount of characters. I thought about keeping a list, but McMurtry actually does a really good job of including context clues throughout this section to remind you of who each character is. Pro tip: a lot of characters have multiple names. While I suspected certain names were overlapping characters, it took me probably the first 50-60 pages to really be sure. For example, Augustus McCrae goes by Gus, Augustus, or McCrae interchangeable and Captain Call goes by Call or The Captain, and occasionally, Woodrow. But again, I found this surprisingly easy to pick up on.

While not a lot happened in the first part, I found the pacing of the novel really well done. I never felt bored and always felt like things were moving ahead. I think this is helped by the amount of characters, and the narration style that travels effortlessly from character to character, providing a lot of different opinions and keeping the plot advancing.

One note is that when comparing this book to modern standards, it’s pretty sexist. The story is set in the 1800’s, so it’s important in keep the story timely, but I will admit that a few times, I had the feeling that if I were more fussy about feminism (including retroactive feminism) I may not totally love this book. Having a whore in every town, and talking about how cheap a Mexican whore would be is not exactly 2019 conversation. Semi-related: I think it’s kind of funny that the author refers to sex as a “poke” and male genitalia as a “carrot”.

Overall, I think the cast of characters is great. The Gus vs. Call conflict, as well as the Gus vs. Jake conflict, is sure to keep things interesting. I like Lorena, but think she’s a fool if she thinks Jake Spoon is going to take her to San Francisco. And I think Newt is an interesting character with a lot of opportunity for controversy due to the unknown nature of his father! As they set out on the trail, I’m very interested to see how they can keep the story interesting. And how far will they go? All the way to Montana?