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The Way West de Jr. A. B. Guthrie
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The Way West (1949 original; edició 1949)

de Jr. A. B. Guthrie

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5871729,901 (4)64
Second in the epic adventure Big Sky series. The wise and paternal mountain man Dick Summers agrees to pilot a wagon train full of 'greenhorns' on a journey from Missouri to Oregon. The passengers confront not only the wild grandeur of the untamed west, but also their own reasons for leavign everything behind. They struggle with the imperfect reality of their long held dreams. Resolve is tested, nature is conquered, and men are made or unmade in this timeless classic.… (més)
Membre:k71477
Títol:The Way West
Autors:Jr. A. B. Guthrie
Informació:Houghton Mifflin Company (1949), Edition: Book Club, Hardcover
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:pp3, k

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The Way West de Jr. A. B. Guthrie (1949)

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"What a person wondered was, were other people like him underneath or, more likely, solider and properer and not moved by crazy notions? He wouldn't want to tell about how it was with him, not even about the way his chest filled sometimes when he came to a rise and looked over the country or how his heart turned just at the smell of camp smoke…" (pp95-96)

Despite being a Pulitzer Prize winner, back when that really meant something, and a successor to one of my favourite recent reads, The Big Sky, there were times when I wasn't sure if I loved The Way West, or saw it as a great book. I enjoyed it throughout, but there were moments when something on the path A. B. Guthrie had laid out would wobble underfoot and make me unsure of my place. But then, there's a scene where the mountain man Dick Summers (the only character to return from The Big Sky) recognises that he made the right choice in coming out West again and taking in the glorious country. One of the other characters asks him why he's smiling, and Dick replies, "Was I smilin'? Just feelin' good, I reckon" (pg. 225). It's a warm moment and I realised that, for all its minor wobbles, I too had been smiling throughout.

Those wobbles were legitimate; stones come loose from the path. The Big Sky was a slow book and The Way West is too, but more happened in The Big Sky. It seems strange to say that, as it often seemed like not much happened and the book was all landscape and thought. But though The Way West has more characters – it follows the members of a wagon train on the famous Oregon Trail – they don't sit as deeply in the memory as characters from the first book, even minor ones, sat. They do just fine, and better than most novels, but a "captain ought to know his company down to the last pup" (pg. 132), and by the end too many of the characters remain strangers. Of those who are more prominent, Higgins becomes forgotten despite having some point-of-view chapters earlier on in the book. Brownie, the teenage boy, is one that seems set up to grow into a man, but his waxing confidence ("he was more like Dick Summers all the time" (pg. 97)) is less show than tell, and by the end he remains in a bit-part role and seems to have reverted into boyishness. Furthermore, though there are storms, river crossings, hardships, conflicts within the group and encounters with Indians, we never feel as though the wagon train is in great peril. There's very little circling of the wagons.

All that said, Guthrie's path is still a sturdy one even after some of those stones have come loose. The prose style is a good example of this; there are moments when I thought some of the sentences were strangled or overcooked, and others where I had to re-read a paragraph to get the sense of it, but then every time I thought this, Guthrie would go on to produce some astonishing piece of writing or touching dialogue between characters or some well-staged scene, and I would forgive the moment where things had drifted slightly. It's as though Guthrie is a prize-fighter who has feinted with his left hand, the better to knock you down with his right.

As in The Big Sky, the great redeemer in The Way West is the American landscape, and the thoughts it evokes in the characters and in the reader. I wrote in my review of The Big Sky that the book demanded you take it slow, and The Way West is the same in that it rewards those who are willing to treat with it on its own terms. The prose, like the West's prairie air, has "a taste to it" (pg. 126), and oftentimes you can tell Guthrie is writing a character towards an outcrop or a stream, solely to provide them a moment of solitude so they can paint the land they see with their eyes and Guthrie can deliver his potent inner monologue on how it makes them feel. In a lesser book, this would seem manipulative or writerly, but in The Way West you can easily imagine these characters wanting to steal away for a moment and look out on the mountains or the plains or the stars or the mighty rivers. Like them, the reader gets the wanderlust where he just wants to say 'goddamn', or moments where he "felt he couldn't speak for the crowding in his chest" (pg. 318). Guthrie's ability to do this is unmatched and it's the most compelling reason to invest in one of his books.

I began to value this all the more highly as it is rare, particularly nowadays, to find a book which does its own thing rather than pandering to a target audience. In fact, I don't know of many books which grant themselves this extent of license, and like the unbroken Western landscape our characters traverse, we're sometimes overwhelmed by its extent but grateful for the sense of freedom such space provides. Like one character realises at the very end, for all the tough moments, the "hardships, sorrows, partings… the heart [was] still ready to beat high" (pg. 340). Wagh! ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jan 14, 2021 |
"The Way West" is a classic tale of American pioneers traveling the wilderness to seek a better life in the year 1836. North America has just acquired Arkansas and Michigan as official states and is still claiming new colonies west of Missouri. With visions of miles upon miles of unsettled land, fertile pastures, blue skies, clear lakes, and majestic mountains, citizens are encouraged to make the voyage to Oregon to ‘occupy the land’ that is free for the taking.

The opening scene takes place as 8 or 9 families from Missouri prepare for the journey gathering horses and wagons loaded with all their worldly personal possessions and meager supplies, cows, oxen, dogs, pregnant wives, a few teens and children, a preacher, and Dick Summers, a rugged experienced guide with a few hired hands. They set off for the 2000 mile trek with a total count of twenty-two wagons and 30 armed men.

The wagon train must brave flooding, desert heat, mosquitoes and snakes, peaceful Indians and hostile Indians, sometimes unpassable terrain of narrow rutted paths up steep mountain sides, and crossing raging rivers. This is the story of humble men and adventurous courageous men, strong supportive wives, and optimistic children told in simple but poetic prose. Anything can happen, and many unexpected things do. But it wasn’t all high drama and heart-thumping action. Sometimes it was days upon days of tedious repetition, as one pioneer says, “Watch the stock. Fix the wagons. Unload, load, unload. Sleep dead like a brute while the wheels keep turning in your head, and then up and go. Drove, plod, push, tug. Damn the bugs. Damn distance. Damn gullies, streams, trees. Keep going. Three cheers for Oregon.”

One of the themes is a coming-of-age tale of 17 year-old Brownie Evans, and 15 year-old Mercy McBee. A poignant scene occurs when Brownie is troubled about the future and asking Dick Summers for advice. “Dick tried to put himself In Brownie’s place- put there the him that used to be, not the him of now, worn hard and doubtful by the knocks of living. You couldn’t tell a boy how few were the things that mattered and how little was their mattering… The dreams dreamed and the hopes hoped and the hurts felt and the jolts suffered, they all got covered by the years. They buried themselves in.” Dick may be the most experienced, wisest man on the journey but he seems to be pondering his own troubled past- you get the feeling he didn’t necessarily follow his own advice and has regrets. Dick is the most interesting character of the story and Guthrie could have cashed in on a sequel.

A. B. Guthrie was born in 1901 and was a historian, journalist, and penned several novels. Guthrie grew up in the mid-west and his storytelling has an authentic early American flare. "The Way West" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. ( )
  LadyLo | Oct 7, 2019 |
One of my all-time favourite books, The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr was originally published in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. It is part of series of novels that the author wrote about the American West and is an entertaining and inspiring classic.

One character from his first book, The Big Sky returns to this book and becomes the guide for a wagon train travelling from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette River Valley in Oregon. This novel brings to life the hardships and adventure these hardy souls endured on their difficult journey. The author delivers his story in straight forward prose, and saves his dramatic flair for the stark and beautiful scenery through which they travel.

Although the book starts out being driven by men, as they move along the trail, the women eventually come to the forefront as well and we learn of their strength, fortitude and grit. They are the backbone of the party and share the work alongside their men as well as fulfilling the traditional woman’s roles. I originally read this book over forty years ago and it is one of a handful of books that made historical fiction so important to me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and wants to read about American expansion. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jul 10, 2019 |
If you like stories about settlers in the American West, this is a great book to pick up. It is not so well known now, but it is a classic that was included in lists of recommended classics in earlier decades and has simply fallen out of fashion at the moment. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
With cover ( )
  larainy | Feb 24, 2017 |
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Second in the epic adventure Big Sky series. The wise and paternal mountain man Dick Summers agrees to pilot a wagon train full of 'greenhorns' on a journey from Missouri to Oregon. The passengers confront not only the wild grandeur of the untamed west, but also their own reasons for leavign everything behind. They struggle with the imperfect reality of their long held dreams. Resolve is tested, nature is conquered, and men are made or unmade in this timeless classic.

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