Classics Club Book #10: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome DoveHe had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men.

Lonesome Dove has been on my to-be-read list for over twenty years. A classic western and a Pulitzer prize winner, I’ve started it at least three times. I’ve even successfully avoided watching the Lonesome Dove TV miniseries all these years because I knew I wanted to read the book first. So when I was creating my list of 50 Classic Books in 5 Years for My 50th Birthday, this was one of the first books I put on it. I felt it was time to get the monkey off my back.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here is the description from Goodreads:

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.

Was it worth the wait? Definitely.

Lonesome Dove is a truly epic story with memorable, well-drawn characters. McMurtry really knows how to bring a story to life. Despite the novel’s massive length, none of the story felt like filler. The book is full of moments of beauty, sadness, humor, and action that unfold organically. I don’t remember a single event in the book that didn’t ring true. Not that it was perfect, however.

My biggest complaint about the novel is the lack of a satisfying conclusion, at least for me. There were several ways McMurtry could have ended the novel that would have been more emotionally satisfying for me, especially regarding one of the main antagonists. But I assume he chose to go more for realism than for the conventional ending, and I can understand that.

Overall, a terrific novel, and I look forward to finally being able to watch the TV miniseries.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
First edition New York: Simon & Schuster 1985
Print length: 964 pages

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

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