Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

Literary Events

What's New?__________


July 6th, author Neil Gaiman will speak at the Long Center. $32.
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The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
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Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

"...A farmwife...went into the fields summers and lay down among the sheep, to have company."

Horses, check. Women, check. Guns, check. Covered wagons, check. Fights, check. Lynching, check. Deaths, check. The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout, was a Western! Insanity, a strong woman who owned her own home and farmed her own land, and a destination in Iowa added plot and character. And the book became a page-turner. More than one book club member hesitated to try it at first and then had difficulty putting it down before finishing it. Almost everyone at the meeting had read and liked the book.

Patty noted that although many westerns focus on heroes or outlaws, this one was about victims. Briggs was certainly an outlaw, but all the other characters were victims of the time, the place, or circumstance. And even Briggs lost his money, the victim of a not uncommon bank closure. The crazy women and, to a great extent, their husbands, were victims of the time and place. Mary Bee was a victim of time, place, and being homely and educated - deal-killers for most potential suitors in Loup.

Marcia asked a key question about the book's plot and Briggs' character. "Why didn't Briggs abandon the crazy women?" Was it because of the way they followed him wherever he went, so he would have had to lock them in the wagon to escape them? The author was able to create some tension periodically, when Briggs would arrive at a place where he would consider leaving the women. Did Briggs have a streak of "good" in him? Or maybe the author wanted to give Briggs a little redemption. Swarthout let the reader know that Briggs had never shot anyone, almost at the very end of the book, thus giving the character a cleaner slate than most readers would have suspected. Janice and Carla questioned whether Briggs was losing his mind, especially when he danced at the end of the book.

This was a 2-character book: Mary Bee Cuddy and Briggs. Others added a bit of flavor (the crazy women, their husbands, the traveling Reverend, and Altha Carter). Briggs was a typical Western character, but he was an antihero, according to Janice. Marla suggested that his ethics involved taking what was there at the moment. Marla and Carla suggested that Mary Bee was showing signs of craziness when she accepted the Homesman job. Carla, aside, said that Briggs was also crazy. Patty thought Briggs' rejection of Mary Bee was what sent her over the edge. I agree with Patty, adding that Mary Bee's seeing what Briggs could do that she couldn't and realizing how much more than her capabilities would be needed to keep running her farm over the years was what made her think she needed him to marry her.

The ending worked. We weren't sure what happened after the ending, but we felt like there was a distinct probability that Briggs would go back to Loup, maybe take over Mary Bee's homestead; after all, he was a claim jumper by trade. This possibility was distinct but not definite. There was also the possibility that Briggs would continue traveling and being a professional "opportunist," as Carla called him.

Carla mentioned an Oregon Trail Museum, where she saw a display of lots of stuff that people discarded along the trail, for various reasons you can imagine. When you're headed to Oregon, there are 2 museums listed online, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon and End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City. Oregon is one of a very few states I have not yet visited, so I hope to get there.

Now the book is a movie. The Los Angeles Times called it, "Love and Madness on the Frontier," and " Disquiet on the Western Front." It seemed to have a quick run around town without many stops. Of course...say it with me..."The book is better than the movie." But I want to see the movie. Please let me know if you find it when it reappears,

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