July 29, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
59°F

‘Get out of Dodge’ with a Western clutched in hand

By MARY OLSON
Medina County District Library

With gas prices near $4 a gallon, many people are contemplating “staycations” in these dog days of summer. If you haven’t heard this term yet, a “staycation” is a vacation at home. Vacationers of this type might be looking for a great adventure to take them “out of Dodge.” An adventure is sure to be found a uniquely American genre: the Western.

If you ask someone who reads Westerns what they like best about them, they might say it’s the strong characters or the description of the Wild West and its wide-open spaces.

Western fiction encompasses so much more than just cowboys, lawmen and gunfighters, though. Writers who set their stories in the West seem to have a great respect for the land and the people who choose to live there. The environment is just as much a character as the people. Here are a few recent, modern Westerns to take you out of Dodge and into the Wild West.

“So Brave, Young, and Handsome” by Leif Enger
The author of “Peace Like a River” returns with a beautifully written novel set in 1915. Monte Beckett, a writer whose success is all behind him, sets out on a journey westward with Glendon Hale, an outlaw who’s been on the run for 20 years. Pursued by an ex-detective, the pair seeks Glendon’s wife to apologize for his abandonment, but what they find is a revelation for them and for the reader.

“Hearts of Horses” by Molly Gloss
Nineteen-year old drifter Martha Lessen gains a reputation in a rural community as a “gentler” of horses by eschewing the rough methods of the day and speaking to horses in low, hushed tones. By helping families and their animals, Martha not only gains respect, but an extended family as well. A poignant read by the author of “Wild Life.”

“The German Bride” by Joanna Hershon
After embarrassing her family by having an affair with an artist, young Eva Frank marries in haste and leaves Berlin as the new wife of Santa Fe dry-goods merchant Abraham Shein. When her new life challenges her in ways she’d never anticipated, Eva must make a decision that will force her to reconcile her past.

“Sun Going Down” by Jack Todd
An engrossing family saga that follows the Paint family from the Civil War to the Great Depression. Peppered with vibrant, strong characters, this novel has something for everyone: history, adventure, romance and even gunfights.

Olson is an outreach librarian with Medina County District Library.