(Review) The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie Jr.

Publication Date: 2002. Originally published in 1947.
Publisher: Mariner Books.
Genre: Fiction, American West.
Pages: 400.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Cover of the first edition.

Link @ Amazon. 

Every once in a while I get a "wild hair" and want to read outside my normal reading habits. Reading about the American West, and the men and women who adapted to it's climate and function, seemed a perfect fit for something different.

The book begins in the year 1830.
At the age of seventeen, Boone left his home in Kentucky and set off for the west. Boone and his dad had gotten into a fight. Boone felt it was time for him to strike-out on his own, to make a life of his own. Boone joins a group of men traveling up the Missouri river. They are fur-trappers, Indian scalpers, living off the land, mountain men. Boone meets Teal Eye. Their story will unfold with hope. Hope for a a settled life Boone had never had.

My Thoughts:
I've thought a lot about this story. I have several thoughts I'll share in the following bullet points.

  • The American West was rough, wild, untamed, extensive, and uncontrollable. The people who lived in it had to adapt to it. They were also rough, wild, untamed, and uncontrollable. I can understand the perplexity of the people who lived there and understood its elements, watching civil town folk travel westward. 
  • Boone was born into a wild and woolly home life. Adapting to the west took little time. His youth and what innocence he had, was replaced by a hard nature that later gave way to bitterness. 
  • On some level Boone wanted a home and family. But these wants or desires were selfish. It was about his needs being met, no relationship ever works this way. 
  • I've read reviewers declare they dislike the "n" word. I don't like it either (frankly I'm not sure of the spelling), but it was a common word in the 1830s. It was a common word during the era that the book was written. It should not be a word we are afraid of, but a sharp reminder of where we were and where we should not go back to. 
  • The main character in The Big Sky is the American West. If you're not paying attention it is easy to miss. It's both a backdrop, forefront, element, theme, and character. I loved the descriptions of what Boone saw; further, his feelings when he viewed the beautiful American West.