Lonesome Dove is an epic, 864 page Western about a couple of cowboys who decide to lead a cattle drive from Southern Texas to the wild country of Montana where they’ll be the first lucky fools to establish a ranch.
They have 3000 cattle in the herd, and that’s a lot of beef, but for some unknown reason they usually seem to be eating bacon. If you think they should switch to a healthier diet, you’d be wrong, because nobody seems to live long enough to die of heart disease. Life on the Great Plains involves a lot of death.
This is not a book I’d ever planned to read. The plot takes a while to get going, and I’m not even sure if I’d call it much of a plot. In the end, none of these things mattered. I could not stop reading this book.
Author Larry McMurtry has created a cast of compelling characters, and the story about pushing smelly cattle through the muck is just a vehicle to reveal other things. The main thing that’s revealed (at least to me) is that most of the rough and tumble cowboys are great at fighting Indians and moving cows but not so great when it comes to dealing with women. In that department they are inept, cruel, and cowardly.
The lone exception might be Augustus, one of the principle characters, but even he spends his time pining for “the one that got away.” Eventually, we meet her and realize she rejected him for some good reasons – reasons that he more or less knows are true.
The very ending is a little strange, but it actually highlights the whole man/woman theme. I would have preferred a happier ending that tied up more loose ends, but that’s just me.
This book won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1986 and it was well deserved. I highly recommend reading it.