Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout

The official book club selection for May was The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout.  I'm not normally a fan of Westerns, books or movies, but that is what book club is all about- reading something different.  This particular book was named the Best Western Novel of 1988 and its film version will be released at the Cannes Film Festival later this month.  The film is directed by and stars Tommy Lee Jones along with Hilary Swank and Meryl Streep.  Knowing a movie with a cast of this caliber would soon be in theaters was another good reason to give the book a read.

Mary Bee Cuddy is a single woman attempting to make it on her own in frontier Nebraska.  She is actually doing quite well when she volunteers to transport four women who have gone insane back to civilization.  The stories of these women is heartbreaking, but life is difficult on the homestead and there are a few women each year that can't make it through the long, cold winter.  Cuddy, as she is commonly called, recruits a claim jumper to help her transport the women back to Iowa where they can be returned to their families.  

The first three-quarters of this novel really had my attention.  Cuddy is self- sufficient, determined and capable.  I love strong female characters.  The women she is helping are victims of a long, lonely winter and husbands who do not understand what they are asking of them.  I was fascinated with the female perspective of being a pioneer that this book explored, but then I was painfully disappointed when it took a turn that I felt made little sense with the characters involved.  Of course, I won't spoil it for anyone who would like to read it on her or his own, but I found it very frustrating.  When I read a book, I like to get a sense of each character's personality and if the author has done a good job developing her or his characters that should be easily done.   I find it very difficult to understand when an author, perhaps wanting to throw in a surprising twist, has a character behave in a way that is inconsistent with all that that character has done or said up to that point.  Now, I love a good plot twist as much as the next person, but a complete personality change is not the same thing.  I was disappointed and I haven't decided yet if I will see the film when it comes to my local movie theater.  Have you read it?  What did you think?

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