Monday, April 11, 2011

True Grit - Charles Portis

Oh Melissa Mc, if only you didn't have your own book blog.  *Sigh*  I shall have to content myself with crying into my pillow...and the occasional guest review.  Thank you so much for sending us this one!

Summary:  Mattie Ross is just 14 years old when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shoots her father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, robbing him of his life, his horse, and $150 in cash. Accompained by the one-eyed Rooster Cogburn -- the meanest available US Marshall -- Mattie leaves home to avenge her father's death and to pursue his killer into Indian Territory.  (Summary and Image from

Melissa's Review:  Mattie Ross, a 14 year old dynamo, is out to exact vengeance on one Tom Chaney, a former work hand for her family. Tom has killed her father, and whether she has help or not, she is determined to bring Tom back to Forth Smith and Judge “Hanging” Parker for justice.

Mattie is able to secure for $100 the assistance of a one-eyed Marshall, Rooster Cogburn. Thus they begin their quest into Indian Territory for the renegade Chaney.

Mattie Ross has become my new favorite adolescent heroine – she’s Scout Finch, but rides a horse and carries a revolver. She shoots, squirms, saves herself from snakes and survives to tell her tale.

The other characters are equally as colorful: Rooster is a former felon, turned law-man with a proclivity to drink. Even though I didn’t see the original movie, John Wayne’s image was superimposed on my brain throughout the novel and it was a PERFECT image. The two also meet up with LeBoeuf, a Texas Ranger who is also on the trail of the menacing Chaney. A somewhat bumbling figure, LeBoeuf adds enough variety to their trifecta to make it interesting.

The prose in this book is stark and sharp – and surprisingly funny! I read it in the car on our way to Tulsa, and through ALL the major towns mentioned in the story: Dardanelle, Fort Smith, Fort Gibson Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and I laughed out loud at many of the passages. Mattie when describing her opinion of men said, “Men will live like Billy goats if they are let alone.” True Mattie, so very true.

I couldn’t help comparing this book to Lonesome Dove since I read them so closely to each other. Honestly, I could see where McMurtry could have been “influenced” by Charles Portis’ work. In fact, I was expecting Gus and Call to meet up with Rooster, Mattie and LeBoeuf at any of the many outposts where they stopped. But I was amazed at what Portis was able to accomplish in a sparse 200+ pages compared to what McMurtry was able to drag on for 900 pages.

In short, I loved this book.

And Mr. Portis lives a few blocks from my house – you think if I go camp out on his porch he would sign a book for me?!

Her Rating:  5 Stars
For the sensitive reader:  Mild descriptions of gun shot wounds, gun fighting and SNAKES!
Sum it up:  Good guys, bad guys, and a spunky heroine -- even if you don't read Westerns, this is a MUST!

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