Summary: Nellie and Jackson Coutright find themselves stranded in a small western town during the late 19th century after their father’s last, epic, business failure. Told through Nellie’s voice, she and her brother manage to put the small town of Rita Blanca on the map with both ingenuity and luck.
Review: The main problem with this book is that McMurtry attempts to write it from Nellie’s perspective. It is a cliché, but not always invalid, that many authors struggle to write a book from the perspective of someone of the opposite gender. It took me 20-30 pages to realize that the narrator was female. In a book with fewer than 300 pages, that should only happen if the author is doing it on purpose. McMurtry, who has written many great westerns, isn’t doing it on purpose. For me, the inability to buy into Nellie as a credible character gradually consumed the book to the point where finishing it became a slog.
Read-a-likes: McMurtry has seen better days. Anyone perplexed by the glowing praise for the author attached to this book should pick up the Library’s copy of Lonesome Dove. The Long Hitch by Michael Zimmer and Other Men’s Horses by Elmer Kelton are better recent novels set in the old west. Those seeking viewing material should try the recent remake of True Grit or John Wayne: The Ultimate Collection. Both are available on DVD at the Lake Bluff Library. Readers looking for stories with a modern day setting that still carry some of the dust of the wilderness should give C. J. Box or Paul Doiron a look.
Availability: This novel is available through the Lake Bluff Public Library as a bookand on CD as an audiobook.
Reviewed by: Eric