Earlier this year when I read Gone with the Wind, I complained through the first three hundred pages at the extensive background given to Scarlett and her family. I wanted the plot to MOVE. And then suddenly, there I was, tearing through the pages, immersed in the world, delighted, horrified, connected, and falling madly in love with the book. I never wanted it to end, and I recognized I was having a very special reading experience, the kind you can only have maybe, a few times in your life--when you read a favorite book for the first time.
Lonesome Dove has in some ways been quite similar. The first section dragged a bit for me, but my Gone with the Wind experience had taught me that patience pays off. Once again, I find the chapters flying by, I laugh out loud in complete delight at the antics of these characters, my stomach clenches in the horrors of their unpredictable and unsettled world. I find myself wanting to talk to others about them, and to talk about the book and the way it is bringing another time alive for me. (I almost said another time and another place--Sandi Patty fans will understand why I didn't) All of this to say I am loving this experience and so glad to be sharing it with all of you!
Our discussion questions for this week were written by Leah and I hope you will join in answering them!
1. We now have the full story of two huge female relationships in our main men's lives: Cal and Maggie; and Gus and Clara. They are very different. What do these relationships tell us about the men they've become, if anything?
2. Our old pal Roscoe gets a female traveling companion! Do you think he should have rescued her? Do you think they make a good pair?
3. The cowboys finally meet a Native American while traveling, the famous Blue Duck, who Cal and Gus even know from their Ranger days (and we saw how bad ass Gus and Cal used to be when they Rangered when they wandered into San Antonio for a bit). What do you make of everything that has happened with Blue Duck and Lorena and what do you think will happen when Gus and Blue Duck meet again?
We now have the full story of two huge female relationships in our main men's lives: Cal and Maggie; and Gus and Clara. They are very different. What do these relationships tell us about the men they've become, if anything?
Leah: I just found the difference between the way the men treat their 'true loves' very striking. Gus is a hopeless romantic, still pining after Clara years later after she has essentially dumped him for a, at least in her opinion, more sensible man, and moved up North. Gus clearly loves women though and while finding comfort with a couple of wives, the one that got away still haunts him and he truly did try to court her into a relationship. Cal on the other hand was completely different. He basically wanted to 'test the waters' with the whole women thing to see what everyone was talking about. From what I can gather, Maggie was the first and last woman he has ever been with and it has left an indelible mark. While he is a man of few words, he has a son out of it, Newt but he won't even acknowledge that. He must feel bad for how things ended with Maggie, things left unsaid. It was an interesting story.
Amy: I found Call's story so sad! The amount of guilt he carries around with him is rather heartbreaking. I think he liked Maggie, but I wasn't even sure he loved her. But what's interesting is how seriously he takes his failure to properly deal with the situation.
Gus does love women and you gotta feel for him pining after Clara. :)
Melissa: The more Gus talks to Call about his relationship with Maggie (how he thinks Call should have settled down with her had a family) the more I think he is really trying to project his personal desires onto Call. I think Gus really wanted that with Clara, but it didn’t work out. So, he is trying to impart his dreams onto Call – and unfortunately for Maggie, Call never wanted that. Also, as much as I want to believe that Gus is in “love” with Clara, I think he has created this image of her, because really, what else does he have to do but day dream about her all day long?! As far as Call, I was surprised at how introspective he got about Maggie – do men really have that depth of feeling?! He really did some soul searching out there is the Texas desert.
Our old pal Roscoe gets a female traveling companion! Do you think he should have rescued her? Do you think they make a good pair?
Leah: What can I say? Every time we see Roscoe I smile but this story had a dark twist. I really wanted Roscoe to be the hero and jump in and save the woman being beaten by the old man in the house he was sleeping at but he didn't want to get into someone else's domestic dispute. I thought it was weak. I was glad she chased after him anyway and I am excited to see where that goes.
Amy: Roscoe doesn't seem to do much he's not absolutely forced into. I laugh straight through his chapters. Janey didn't need him to do the saving after all, he provided enough of an opportunity for her to save herself. I will be very interested to see where it goes.
Melissa: Honestly, even though I read these chapters fairly quickly and recently, I had already forgotten that Roscoe had picked up a “stray.” I guess I need to re-read that part. But in spite of my brain lapse, I find myself wanting to read more of Roscoe’s story.
The cowboys finally meet a Native American while traveling, the famous Blue Duck, who Cal and Gus even know from their Ranger days (and we saw how bad ass Gus and Cal used to be when they Rangered when they wandered into San Antonio for a bit). What do you make of everything that has happened with Blue Duck and Lorena and what do you think will happen when Gus and Blue Duck meet again?
Leah: Talk about some true cowboy and Indian action like the kind old fashion Westerns were about! We have a captured damsel in distress and an old time cowboy hero riding in to save the day from the rogue native, while the scoundrel Jake just sits back and gets drunk and angry. Seriously it's some good action. I predict a shoot out!
Amy: I found what happened horrifying! Poor Lorena! (though I'm sad she couldn't just stay by herself) You're right it feels like the classic Western scene. There better be a shoot-out!
Melissa: See, I told you she should have gone with Xavier! I’m stumped as to why Gus didn’t FORCE her to come to camp with him. He knew exactly the danger she was in. Seemed to go against his character. Her horse back journey was quite terrifying. And when Blue Duck turns her over to his men…wow…even though it was written obliquely, it’s a sickening scene. My only issue with this chapter is it seems so, like you said, “Western.” Is McMurtry feeding/perpetuating a Hollywood cowboy/Indian stereotype? Not sure.