Book Review: The Big Sky

Author: A.B. Guthrie

Publisher: William Sloane Associates, 1947

Genre: Western

My Rating: A

Two years ago I read The Way West by A.B. Guthrie. It was a moving historical fiction about one of the first treks of settlers over the Oregon Trail. (My review is HERE.) That book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1950. I wanted to read the first book in Guthrie’s trilogy so I decided that now, with May’s Western Challenge, would be a good time.

The Big Sky spans the years 1830 to 1843. The story centers around Boone Caudill who ran away from his Kentucky home at 17 with his father’s special rifle. His goal was to head out west where he knows his mother’s brother is a mountain man. He longs to be on his own and to spend his life outdoors.

Boone’s goal was not necessarily to have a lot of adventures but he gets them anyway. Near the beginning of the novel is an interesting frontier trial. Someone steals Boone’s rifle and when he tries to get it back he’s arrested. The impromptu trial doesn’t get Boone off but it was fun to read the crude legal wranglings.

Boone encounters people who take advantage of him but he also meets good people as well. Boone becomes good friends with another young man, Jim Deakins. Together they make it to St. Louis and beyond.

They team up and become good friends with Dick Summers, a master hunter and guide. Boone greatly admires Summers. This is the first positive adult male he’s known and Summers serves as a personal guide for Boone as he matures. (Dick Summers was the trail boss for the wagon train in The Way West so I already knew his good character.)

Boone and Deakins make it to the mountains and learn to trap. They have numerous encounters with Indians and Boone falls in love at first meeting with an Indian girl, Teal Eye.

It’s a jam-packed novel of one scrape after another. It’s impossible not to love the character of Boone Caudill. Even though he did some pretty stupid things and has a hot temper, I was always rooting for him. The dialogue seemed very true to the time period as did the descriptions of people, surroundings and landscapes. It’s a part of the country I’m very familiar with and that boosted my enjoyment of the story.

This is a good historical novel, especially for readers who like stories about the West. It’s not a shoot-em-up cowboys and Indians story. It’s fiction but still a good study of the people who populated the country during the 1830s to 1840s. There was a nice bonus in the paperback edition I read. It was a Foreward by Wallace Stegner. In it he puts the significance of this story in perspective and calls The Big Sky A.B. Guthrie’s best novel.

Check your local library for a copy of this book. The Big Sky is also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

This is Book #1 for the Hop-a-long, Git-a-long, Read-a-long sponsored by Ready When You Are C.B.

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12 Responses to Book Review: The Big Sky

  1. Pingback: Joyfully Retired » Book Review: The Big Sky | ReviewTica

  2. Beth F says:

    I *adored* this novel when I read it a million years ago. I think I read a couple of times in my youth. Now you’re making me want to read it again.

  3. Annie says:

    I like stories about the West and I like the title of this one ! I know that a west state has for quote “Big sky state”, but don’t remember its name. Does someody can help me ? Thanks !

  4. I love the name Boone! He does sound like a great character and pretty true to life for a young man.

  5. Pingback: Joyfully Retired » Book Review: The Big Sky Books Empire | Books Empire

  6. Barbara says:

    I haven’t read a western in a long time and I like them if they aren’t shoot ’em up and head ’em off at the pass sorts.

  7. I never heard of this and admit it would take a lot to get me to read a western! But it’s intriguing that you and Beth Fish liked this so much!

  8. Martha says:

    I’ve never heard of this one and I’m not surprised since I haven’t been much into western fiction. Until recently that is, I’ve been finding myself drawn to it and I don’t know why. This sounds like it my be up my ally since it isn’t a big shoot ’em up story.

  9. Staci says:

    This actually sounds pretty interesting and I love to read about the early settlers of the west.

  10. mark says:

    I read this book in High School, and then again a few years later, and it is still one of my all-time favorite western novels.

  11. stacybuckeye says:

    I’m not much for westerns and normally I would just pass this one by, but Boone seems like a kid I would like to read about. I’m making a note of it.

  12. cbjames says:

    Thanks for joining in my little read-a-long. I’m in the midst of Susan Dodd’s book Mamaw right now and hope to have my own western review up later this week.

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