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The Last Cowgirl: A Novel Paperback – January 27, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 Reprint edition (January 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061257192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061257193
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,412,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Richman's first novel offers a curious and satisfying blend of longing, political criticism and a middle-aged woman's sudden realization that she has been pretending all her life. Dickie Sinfield, 52, spent her childhood on a hardscrabble Utah cattle ranch, after her father uprooted her and her siblings from the suburbs and forced her to become a cowgirl at age seven. Fleeing at 18, Dickie never married and has been a Salt Lake City newspaper reporter for 25 years, all the while denying her love for her family and for childhood neighbor boy Stumpy Nelson. When Dickie's brother, Heber, is killed by poison gas in an accident at the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Grounds, Dickie comes home for the funeral. There, she face her father's anger and bitterness, her mother's infidelity, her best friend's betrayal—and her own life. Amid Dickie's personal angst and gradual self-discovery, Richman unloads heaping criticism on the federal government's handling of chemical weapons and its treatment of civilian accident victims. Author of the memoir Riding in the Shadows of Saints: A Woman's Story of Motorcycling the Mormon Trail, Richman delivers a warm story of good folks who make bad decisions, justify them and then have to live with the consequences. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Richman’s mastery of the emotional geography is illuminating and call(s) to mind the work of Pat Conroy.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Rich characterizations and vivid sense of place. One of the year’s finest works of local fiction.” (Salt Lake City Weekly)

“A warm story of good folks who make bad decisions and then have to live with them.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Readers will be irrevocably drawn into this top-notch fictional debut from an amazing new talent.” (Booklist)

“ Engrossing. The narrative touches on complexities and contradictions that touch so many lives: steadfast patriotism vs. threatening governmental action; urban Mormonism vs. its earthier rural equivalent; and people vs. a past that can leave them with heavy baggage. With lovely specificity, Richman manages to tell a true Utah story.” (Salt Lake City Weekly, 2008 ARTYS Awards (Winner, Best Fiction Book))

More About the Author

Jana was born and raised in Utah's west desert, the daughter of a small-time rancher and a hand-wringing Mormon mother. With the exception of a few misguided years spent in New York City trying to make a fortune on Wall Street, she has lived her entire life--more than 50 years--west of the hundredth meridian. She writes about issues that threaten to destroy the essence of the west: overpopulation, overdevelopment, rapidly dwindling water aquifers, stupidity, ignorance, arrogance and greed. She also writes about passion, beauty, and love.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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This is a wonderful book, with meaningful characters and gorgeous writing.
Mountain Bookie
With believable characters, making interesting sometimes upsetting choices, even a very contemporary "in the news" plotline, Richman has a lot to offer here.
Jordan
I am a fan of chick lit but every once in a while I like to venture out of that easy to read, predictable but entertaining world of books.
cb

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By mia3mom on January 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I recently reviewed two memoirs, mentioning that they read like novels. Now I have found a novel that felt like a memoir. In The Last Cowgirl: A Novel, Jana Richman has brought her main character, Dickie Sinfield to life through a combination of contemporary narrative and flashbacks to childhood memories. The Last Cowgirl is a book about a woman coming to terms with her childhood on a cattle ranch, and her life in the 30 years since she left it.

When she was 7 years old, Dickie's father George moved the family from a suburb of Salt Lake City to a ranch in the rural town of Clayton, complete with cows and horses. Dickie tells us at the beginning of the novel:

Since then - nearly forty-six years ago - I've blamed anything that needed blaming on what Annie refers to it as Dad's "Gil Favor complex."

Dickie's older brother Heber thrived, loving the change, while older sister Annie and mother Ruth ignored the move, continuing to be fashionable and ladylike. Dickie was stuck in the middle, and ended up torn between the two extremes. While she would say that she hated life in Clayton, she loved riding in the wilderness with her new friend Stumpy and helping their neighbor, Bev, with her garden and ranch. Dickie was a sensitive child who had thrived on orderliness of the green grass, sidewalks, and curbs, and felt out of her element in the relative wilderness of Clayton. Dickie's character comes across well in this quote about her unsettled feelings during childhood:

It was the last three words that got to me. The three words I'd been hearing my entire life. Dropped off a horse onto her head. She'll be fine. Dragged by a steer. She'll be fine. Lost in the mountains. She'll be fine. Branded. She'll be fine. Shot at. She'll be fine.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book by author Jana Richman, having so thoroughly enjoyed her non-fiction work Riding in the Shadows of Saints: A Woman's Story of Motorcycling the Mormon Trail. I was hoping for more of her thoughtful insights into the Mormon culture in particular and human nature in general and 'The Last Cowgirl' did not disappoint.

With a light and compelling style and clear prose, Richman weaves a tale loosely based on her own experiences growing up in rural Utah to fulfill her father's life-long dream to live the American cowboy life before it was lost forever. The story is a short epic, covering as it does the lives of its main characters over a span of 40 years or so. Along the way, the reader learns more about the uniquely Mormon culture, the difficult but sometimes fulfilling life of the small rancher in the American West, and the US Army's secretive and flawed chemical weapons testing program in the desert west of Salt Lake City in the '60's.

The characters themselves are endearing, approachable and well developed for such a compact work, and I found myself wanting to jump in the car and drive out to that rugged valley where the story plays out in the hopes of running into one or more them - they are that appealing and believable.

As with her earlier work, Ms Richman has written a book that is entertaining, informative and thought-provoking. I look forward to more from this talented writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jordan on September 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Even if you have never ridden the range, The Last Cowgirl lets you feel what it would be like to live there, do that. With believable characters, making interesting sometimes upsetting choices, even a very contemporary "in the news" plotline, Richman has a lot to offer here. I did find some of the conversation between the 12-year-old Stumpy and Dickie too mature, but that's not a big deal. And at the end I wanted the "bad guys" to get punished, but of course that doesn't always happen in real life either.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on January 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dickie Sinfield is currently pretty happy with her life. She has a job as a journalist that she loves. Her house is wonderfully messy and chaotic. Michael, her boyfriend of twelve years, lives right next door and is always there when she needs him. Dot, her best friend, keeps her life moving with her advice and no-nonsense attitude. Everything has been going pretty well for Dickie until she gets the word that her brother, Heber, has died.

When Dickie goes back home for the funeral, she's faced with her family and friends, but most of all she's faced with her childhood. Years of trying to forget have gone out the window the first moment she steps foot back on the ranch. Now Dickie must deal with a past that has always haunted her. Is the old adage true that you can't go home again?

Or is it true that home is where the heart is?

While reading the first chapter, I was actually very disappointed. I felt it was dry and didn't sink its teeth into me. But by the time I started the second chapter, I changed my mind, and then had a hard time putting it down.

Jana Richman has a wonderful way with words that allows you to visualize exactly what is happening and to sympathize with the characters. You know how everyone is feeling, looking, and acting throughout the entire book, though sometimes you don't understand their motivations.

The problem I had with this book was the constant flashbacks. I understand they needed to be there, but it took me until the end of the book to figure out that there was a pattern for which they emerge. Overall I really enjoyed the book and thought it was a great story that makes you examine your own life and what it holds.

Jane and her husband live in Utah, and she invites readers to email her at last [...].

Armchair Interviews says: The Last Cowgirl is Jane Richman's third novel.
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