Publisher: William Sloane Associates, 1947
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.