A.B. Guthrie – The Way West

202033I just finished the second Pulitzer of the year, The Way West by A.B. Guthrie. It was a great book to follow up The Yearling as they were similar tales of hardship and woe with significantly different outcomes.

The Way West is an expertly told tale that is well known to Americans especially of its time winning the prize in 1950. The story follows a wagon train starting out from Independence, MO destined for Willamette, OR. This is the tale of he Oregon Trail as the game we all played as kids on green screen Apples and IBM’s in grade school. A boy gets bitten by a snake. A wagon doesn’t make it across a river. Indians steal from them constantly. There is a marriage. A dog gets suspiciously killed along the way. This novel does it all. Guthrie does not shy away from the conventions he just wants to write it better than anyone else. And he does mostly. There are quite a few pioneer stories contained in the Pulitzer list. As Drew and I consider doing a send up novel to encapsulate the entire scope of Pulitzer legend and canon we would undoubtedly have to write a pioneer novel that would include the other features but it’s base motif would be pioneer definitely.

The Way West is an enjoyable read. There are several instances especially near the end with some fantastic writing. I appreciate the formulaic western when it is done well and Guthrie does it well. Guthrie has moments/flashes of insight that are better than any other ‘serious’ writing I have ever read so cheers to him to moving me to contemplate my life as I read a passage from his all too predictable novel. It was a strange experience but I enjoyed it.


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