Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Shane" by Jack Schaefer (again)

I hadn't reread this since I led the read-along for it back in 2016, and I decided it was high time I revisited it.  I loved it even more this time through, if that's somehow possible.  Partly, of course, that's because I know how Alan Ladd residing so firmly in my head that I could envision him throughout the book, which was a delightful bonus.  

The story is deceptively simple.  At its core is a plot of comfortable familiarity:  a stranger rides in out of the unknown, and everything changes.  Which is basically my favorite plot, to be honest.  The Starrett family, Joe and Marian and their little boy Bob, live on a small, struggling farm in Wyoming.  They and their farmer neighbors have had difficulty with the big rancher across the river, but so far he and his cowboys have just been annoying, not overtly violent.

Into this uneasy situation rides a stranger, slim and lithe and obviously dangerous.  He says they can call him Shane, and although he is clearly not a farmer, he decides to stay on at the Starrett farm as their hired hand.  Together, he and Joe transform the farm into something to be proud of.  But his presence there tips the uneasy balance between the ranchers and the farmers, and his non-farmer skills make all the difference in the end.

What makes this story so rich and meaty is all the subtext, the emotions and fears and desires and hopes all simmering just under the dialog and actions of these four brave, bruised, stalwart people.  If Ernest Hemingway had ever written an actual western, it would have felt very similar to this.  This writing style feels to me so much like real life, when people hide their true thoughts and feelings behind masks, smile when they're sad, and keep their deepest wants and needs hidden.

The 1953 movie differs slightly here and there, but is the same in essence, and I adore it.  It plus one other movie are what made me an Alan Ladd superfan :-)

(Mine from Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"What a man knows isn't important. It's what he is that counts" (p. 33).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some violence and low-level bad language.


  1. I heard this book mentioned ages ago & forgot about it. Thanks for the review. I'll see if I can find a copy.

    1. Carol, you're welcome! I hope you can find a copy. It's a rich story told simply and well -- sooooo good.


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