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The Big Sky by A.B. Jr Guthrie

The Big Sky (1947)

by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Guthrie's Western Sequence (book 1)

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"By day Boone could get himself on a hill and see forever, until the sky came down and shut off his eye. There was the sky above, blue as paint, and the brown earth rolling underneath, and himself between them with a free, wild feeling in his chest, as if they were the ceiling and floor of a home that was all his own."

First published in 1947 and set between 1830 and 1843, A.B. Guthrie's classic novel of mountain men and the opening of the west to white settlement is both a tribute to the breathtaking beauty of the vast northern plains and Rocky Mountains, and a eulogy for the territory in its unspoiled state. His descriptions of the landscape are like the best of paintings; they evoke the images, the light, the sounds, and the feeling, the precious loneliness of the landscape.

Guthrie also creates memorable characters: Boone Caudill and Jim Deakins and Dick Summers will live forever in my mental cast of favorites. These are not completely idealized heroes, although they do lean in that direction. They are tough and, to greater or lesser degrees, stone-hearted. But they each have redeeming qualities to balance out the brutal self-determination. Boone, too quick to judge, is nonetheless deeply loyal and unflinchingly honest. Jim is optimistic and warm, never underestimating the risks inherent in the adventures to which he is inexorably drawn. Dick, the father figure (Boone's own callous and vicious father failing to serve), is the quintessential hunter: he understands the land, its human occupants, and the creatures that roam her vast expanses.

Sexism and racism run deep in the narrative; it is a product of its time. And yet you get the sense that Guthrie knew things would change, that they must change. You can also sense that he grieves the invasion of white civilization into a territory that was never perfect, never fully peaceful or easy, but untainted and beautiful in the simplicity of its seasons. ( )
5 vote EBT1002 | Feb 21, 2018 |
Originally published in 1947, The Big Sky by A. B. Guthrie is the first in a limited series that the author wrote about the taming of western America. This first book deals with the mountain man, a unique breed that were the first white men to come to the western mountains trapping beaver and staying to live the free lifestyle. The story follows the life of Boone Cauldill who starts off as a young runaway from a farm in Kentucky and grows to be a weathered, veteran mountain man, wise in the ways of both the country and the Indians that reside there.

Spanning the years of 1830 to 1843, the book is full of the adventures of Boone, his friend Jim Deacon and their mentor Dick Summers. Boone grows to admire Summers a great deal but although Summers can see that this way of life is ending, Boone has no desire to be anything but a trapper and hunter. He dismisses any idea that the country could change and that settlers will come. Although one can’t help but root for him, Boon Caldill is far from perfect. Much like the father that he ran away from, he is hot tempered and stubborn. He never learned how to express his feelings and he tends to act without thinking about the consequences.

The Big Sky is an epic adventure novel, set in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming an area that the author knows wells and obviously loved. This is a skillful depiction of how the west was able to capture the hearts of these independent men whose time was so colorful yet short-lived. While not setting out to romanticize these men, nevertheless, reading of them makes one yearn to experience that lifestyle, if only for a short time. Beautifully written and full of lyrical descriptions, The Big Sky recreates the savagery and splendor of this untouched frontier. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Dec 17, 2017 |
I liked this story of mountain men and the early west. ( )
  Bruce_Deming | Feb 5, 2016 |
The original beaver-hunting mountain man novel. Montana in 1830s.
Read Samoa Aug 2003 ( )
1 vote mbmackay | Nov 28, 2015 |
My father read this book in the 1960s when he was serving as a fire lookout for the Forest Service. We have often discussed what it was like to live in the lookout tower for three months at a time. He told me this book really helped him survive that first time he did this, and that for him it was "the Great American Novel." It is a very powerful book about a mountain man, Boone Caudill (seriously, is there a better mountain man name than that? It is the ur-mountain man name). It is not a happy book, but it is a memorable look at a short time in American history (pre-Civil War in the American West) when men could actually decide to be mountain men and trap beaver for a living. Much of the plot concerns the ways in which Native Americans and white people met, fought, and sometimes cooperated, and the differences and similarities in their lifestyles. The dialect is really interesting, a far cry from Mark Twain, lots of profanity and colorful expressions. It rang very true to me, though I am no scholar of the Old West. This was also a tragedy, in the Greek sense, in that you could see the trajectory of the hero and know from the get-go that it was not going to end happily. I can see why my father loved it so much when he was a young man coping with isolation in the wilderness that was very different but not entirely dissimilar from the lifestyle described in the book. I am very happy that I read it. It should be more widely known, but I think it is one of those books that was written in the mid-20th century that was famous in its day and has been at least partly forgotten. This is a shame. Read this book, you won't soon forget it. ( )
8 vote anna_in_pdx | Oct 13, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guthrie, A. B., Jr.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Foley, KevinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haemer, AlanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stenger, WallaceForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my father
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Serena Caudill heard a step outside and then the squeak of the cabin door and knew that John was coming in.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618154639, Paperback)

A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction.


Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man, whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Relates the adventures of Boone Caudill, a mountain man in the American West of the mid-nineteenth century.

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