Beach Read

HI 93 / LO 63 , heat advisory remains in effect


Before I went to the beach this summer, I spent some time deciding what I would bring for my beach read. It’s a momentous decision. Must be fiction, of course. (I think you’ll get kicked off the sand for reading anything else.) I had planned to read something I’d put in the category of Chick Lit With Unexpected Depth, but I read that one in a day. I needed something long, something engrossing, and something—not to put too fine a point on it—that would change my life. I found it.

“Lonesome Dove,” by Larry McMurtry. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Winner of my heart.

Um, Megan, isn’t that a Western?

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

I’ve never read a Western before, probably because I am a lifelong Texan and want to prove that I’m above the stereotypes. But I’ve been lying to myself all these years. Apparently, all I really wanted was a story of friendship and love, most of which takes place along a cattle drive from the border with Mexico to the border with Canada.

After I finished the book, I read the reviews on Amazon. (I prefer to read Amazon reviews after a book, not before.) Here’s part of my favorite one from Jim Mitchell in St. Louis: “Nothing you read afterwards, for years to come, will compare. Lonesome Dove will spoil you and diminish everything else you read, no matter how good it may be.” He also calls it “emotionally devastating,” while admitting that’s not a very good way to sell the book. You know, I thought I knew something about emotional devastation. Then I met Lorie, the love of everyone’s life except the man she truly loved.

I know nothing of the world. Or at least, I didn’t. Not until I read the book. Or as Gus McCrae puts it, “It’s a fine world, though rich in hardship at times.”

As writers, we’ve all heard the mantra, “Show, Don’t Tell.” McMurtry does something I call “Tell, Then Show.” So, he’ll drop a sentence like this one: “Call had destruction in him and would go on killing when there was no need.” And 100 pages later, you see this sentence come true. McMurtry does this over and over again. Like Dickens, he lays the groundwork and rewards you for paying attention.

The book is as long as the cattle drive, 900-ish pages. And as I realized I was nearing the end of the 102 chapters, I slowed down. I didn’t want to miss anything.

I texted my dad, “I am pre-emptively sad. I do not want it to end!” I then referenced chapter 88, “which was one of the more satisfying chapters I’ve ever read.”

Dad texted back, “Maybe the best part of the best story! Love. Dad p.s. I know the feeling!!!”

You don’t have to read it. Most of you won’t. But for those of you who already have, please please please send me an email! I want to talk about Gus and Call and Newt and Lorie and Jake and Clara and Roscoe and Janey and July and Joe and Elmira and Big Zwey and Blue Duck and Po Campo and Bolivar and Pea Eye and Dish and the O’Brien brothers and Deets. I miss them.



  1. I will get it from the library. Thanks.

  2. I have to admit, I’ve never even been tempted to pick up this book. But now, you’ve made me curious.

    I love that you don’t read reviews until after you’ve read the book. And I love the text exchange with your dad.

  3. looks like one to put on the list.
    good review 🙂

  4. I’m intrigued, though I admit, the 900-ish pages scares the devil out of me. That’s long!

    Nowadays, though, I allow myself to quit a book if I just don’t like it. I used to make myself finish every book I started no matter what, but now, I’m getting old, and there’s just not enough time to finish books I don’t adore.

  5. The best part is talking about it afterward. I read it so long ago I can’t even remember the people (I know.). Perhaps when I’ve finished with Herriot (yet again) I’ll reread it. Then we can talk!!

  6. P.S. That “show – don’t tell” thing has totally stopped the writing on my book. I’m driving myself crazy with it to the point where I can’t even tell if I’m telling or showing 🙂

  7. I’ve never read it or watched the tv miniseries but I am a fan of his son’s music. That guy can write. I was disappointed in myself not to read any fiction at the beach this year. But I did read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and it was almost as good as fiction. And I finally finished Poemcrazy. Plus I read parts of The Sabbath World for THC. But I am missing me some good story…

  8. Ok. Now I have to read it!

  9. My mom tried to get me to read it back when she was alive. I finally started reading it two summers ago, and was in love with it by the first page, and wished I could roll back time, because of course that’s what she wanted — to talk about it with me. I savored it and cried some and was, like you, sorry when it was over.

  10. I never read the book, but I watched the miniseries. There were images I didn’t want to remember, and I found it emotionally devastating. But maybe I need to get this book and read with a different eye.