I can't believe it's over! After 900 pages and innumerable cattle miles, the Hat Creek Gang (or what's left of it) has come to the end of the road -- and so have Leah, Amy and I.
It's been a great trek -- and as much as I loved the book -- it wouldn't have been the same without this discussion thread.
Here are our final thoughts on Lonesome Dove:
1) When Gus set out with only Pea Eye did you have a sense that something would go wrong? Were you surprised by what happened or the way in which Gus died?
Leah: Well, I am not sure how to answer this one since this was one of the things I remembered from my first read. So yep. I knew Gus would die. However, re-reading I still hoped against hope that somehow it would all come out differently this time and he would survive! I guess, in a way, it does seem sort of a fitting death. He spent his life fighting Indians. It seems like he was always chasing danger so it would have caught him at some point and he did live a long life. I loved that McMurtry let us spend some time with Gus at the end getting to know his last wishes.
Amy: True...you were spoiled. It was a pretty awful death. Ugh, I hate amputations of the limbs in books. but I can seriously understand preferring to die than to have no legs, especially after a life like Gus's.
Melissa: After Deets died, I knew something was going to happen to someone…I was hoping it wouldn’t be Gus. And, yes, I was surprised by the way it happened. But like Leah said, it seemed appropriate that he would die by an Indian’s arrow. I must have been very naïve though, because even as his other leg was turning green and then black, I really thought he was going to pull through. I just couldn’t imagine the book without him. Or him not going back to Nebraska to be with Clara and Lorena. It made me that much more angry with Call.
2) Call seems to be in a deep sort of grief, not only over Gus's death but what he perceives as his own failure. Were you surprised by how down he was? Disappointed he couldn't communicate better with Newt?
Leah: I was surprised by how down Call was. Call has lost his best friend, his life’s companion. He spent the majority of his adult life with Gus by his side and now he is gone. A part of his will never be the same. Clearly the ranch on Montana is a success and he should be proud of that and they knew going into that there would be some deaths but sadly, I think for Call it’s about the get and not about the end result so he’s restless once again. I don’t know if I am disappointed about the way he communicated with Newt. A part of me felt Call is the epitome of the strong, silent type and for him to have suddenly gotten all sappy would have been weird. He gave him Newt all the things that meant the most to him and I think that conveyed all Call could say.
Amy: I agree, but also think that there was some truth that giving Newt his name would have meant more to Newt in every way. But I guess you can't just expect sudden change!
Melissa: I have no sympathy for Call. He deserves every bit of grief he is experiencing and then some. He failed his team, he failed Gus and he failed Newt. He was selfish and unrepentant when he decided to make this journey. And when things started turning sour, he should have had the guts to “cut his losses” and turn back or at least stop and rethink things. As much as he was trying to fulfill his promise to Gus to bury him in “Clara’s Meadow”, I also think he was selfishly trying to ease his conscience. As far as Newt, again, I think it was selfish on his part. I don’t buy the strong silent type…he had honor throughout all of his other actions as a Ranger – the most honorable thing he could have done, without being sappy, was to acknowledge Newt as his son.
3) What did you think of the ending? Do you feel it was a good stopping point for the story of Lonesome Dove?
Leah: How do you wrap up an epic? I liked that it ended in Lonesome Dove. It seemed like it might not but Call going back was fitting. A book by that name should start and end there. That was really their home.
Amy: I agree! Good point.
Melissa: Considering I spent the last 100 pages in tears, yes, the ending worked. But, it’s not without fault: Considering it took them 800 pages to make the journey to Montana, and only 100 pages for Call to return to Texas was a bit expedited. Also, as much as I wanted to know what happened to Blue Duck, the fact that that story line was so “tidy” with Call making his was to New Mexico, and Blue Duck being in prison ready to be hanged – that worked out way too easy. But I loved the fact that Bolivar was at the ranch ringing the bell – and that Wanz burned the saloon. I thought that was perfect.
1) Several threads are left quite open and we can imagine what happens to our beloved characters. Do you think Newt survives alone? What do you think happens to Lorena? July? Clara?
Leah: Well we could always read the “Streets of Loredo” and find out :) but I like to think that yes Newt does survive and thrive as boss of the Montana ranch. Call said he was a boss at Newt’s age so I think that it was fitting for Newt to be so as well. Clara clearly is made of strong stock so she’ll be fine. I think Lorena still needs time to heal but hopefully she’ll find companionship and July, man I don’t know about him. Honestly he needs to get over his puppy love stage!
Amy: I was surprised when I read the synopsis of Streets of Laredo by what happens to some of them. I think that I prefer in a way to just leave the story as is and not read the sequel...imagining that Newt thrives, Call finds a new adventure, Clara raises Martin to healthy adulthood, and Lorena becomes the Clara of Montana. :)
Melissa: I agree with Amy – I have a hard time trying to project futures for these characters. Because whatever happened, I’m sure I would be disappointed. If for no other reason than Gus isn’t involved. I can’t imagine reading a sequel without Gus. But, I didn’t know there was a sequel – so it my get the best of my curiosity. Leah, have you read it?
2) How was the book different than you thought it would be when you first started? Did it live up to your expectations?
Leah: Having this be a re-read for me, personally I thought it was even better the second time. Reading it with you two I was really able to analyze the details and scope of this novel. I absolutely love this book!
Amy: I have to admit it was much better than I expected!
Melissa: Considering I was ready to give up in the early stages, I would have to say that it exceeded expectations. I know that without the both of you and this read along, I would have given up on this book. So, thank you – because once I got over the “hump,” I loved every page.
3) What do you think McMurtry's overarching theme of the book was?
Leah: Personally, this is a toughie but if I was to make a guess it would be to have honored the West. I think a lot of books labeled as Westerns get a bad rap as some sort of cheesy grocery store novels but this was one that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote a novel about the West to elevate the genre about a time gone by and characters that that made America what it is today.
Amy: I know it's tough, I needed help! I think it's about the West as well and the quote at the beginning of the book, really captures it nicely.
Melissa: Oh no – an English Lit-type question! All I can really think of is – honor, endurance, perseverance and a little bit of luck.
Any final thoughts you'd like to share?