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'The Last Cowgirl' is a captivating tale | Book Review

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A friend called just as I was finishing Jana Richman’s book, The Last Cowgirl.

“Oh, what’s it about?” she asked.

After three days and 300 spellbinding pages, I realized that I couldn’t answer that question easily. I needed to ruminate, digest and sit with this novel before I could skillfully respond. What follows is what I told her.

The Last Cowgirl is a complex, multi-dimensional novel. The first dimension holds a simple plot: a young girl, named Dickie, is uprooted from her beloved suburban home and moved to a run-down ranch in a small, desolate town, so her father can pursue his cowboy dreams. When Dickie graduates from high school, she flees her home in favor of the big city and does not return again until three decades later. On her return, Dickie has to confront the consequences of the life she has chosen.

The second dimension delivers an enjoyable gaze into the cowboy lifestyle, complete with vivid depictions of cattle drives, steer brandings and long, lollygaging horse rides. This novel satisfied every urge I’ve ever had to stay at a dude ranch.

The third dimension evoked some of the most eloquent and articulate characterizations of a land and its environs. It was so pleasing that, at times, I found myself deeply and utterly lulled. The author describes aspects of the story in such detail that you feel it with all your senses. Through this story, I gleefully came upon a herd of wild horses, ambled down a dusty trail and swam in tranquil blue waters.

But it’s the fourth dimension that captivated me the most. This final dimension uses the plot, cowboy lifestyle and alluring landscape as a vehicle to explore the characters’ emotional geography. It is within this dimension that the novel breathes. It is here that the author explores a “pain nurture[ed] so well and carri[ed] around like a precious stone.”

It is in this realm that we discover a dependence and resentment, a truth not accepted and a life unlived. This was a novel that challenged me to self-reflection, contemplation and a realization that pain is supposed to move through you. It’s not supposed to define you.

This book is perfect for a reading club. It begs for discussion. It’s also well suited for the contemplative type. Or, if you are interested in all things cowboy, this book is definitely for you. It is for these people that I highly recommend The Last Cowgirl.

This book receives a rating of 4 out of 5: So enjoyable, you make time to read.

Reviewer Dina Parker would like to hear from you! Send her your reading tips, hints and comments at dinaparker@centurytel.net.

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