Fourteen year old Mattie Ross is on the hunt for the drunken coward who murdered and robbed her father. The criminal, Tom Chaney, has run off to the Indian Territory and joined up with a well known gang of thieves. When Mattie hears about the reputation of US Marshall Rooster Cogburn, she searches him out and hires him to help her get her man. A Texas Ranger shows up, also hunting Chaney, and so all three enter the Indian Territory to track him down.
I really didn’t know much about this story, other than it was recently made into a movie (again). I had wanted to see the movie, but never quite got around to it. I saw this book at my local indie/discount bookshop and I snatched it up.
I loved young Mattie pretty much from the opening page. She has spunk, backbone, intelligence, and she is fierce. Do not try to take advantage of this one; she will cut you down. I love a strong female protagonist like this.
She tells her story plainly, as though for the historical record, and not a memoir of her grand adventure at age fourteen. This is her story of seeking revenge for her father’s murder, and she tells is with a surprising lack of sympathy or sentimentality. I suppose that is a reflection on how life was in the plains in the late 1800s… but really, you just can’t help but accept her unflinching honesty.
Despite this, you know that she is not cold hearted. She has a funny sense of humor as well, though I’m not sure it is at all times intentional. Rooster is a great character as well. He and Mattie make a great team. Rooster can tell a great tale, and while it may sound like he is exaggerating, deep down you know it is the truth. The man has grit.
This was a great book… I am still surprised to find that I enjoy Westerns! I certainly haven’t read many, but I like the air about them. I like the hardness in the characters and the wild landscapes. This is definitely a genre I’d like to explore some more… I already have more Cormac McCarthy and Willa Cather on my TBR bookcase.
by Charles Portis
Overlook Press, 2010. First Published 1968.
Source: Purchased New
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