Monday, February 15, 2010
Review: The Last Cowgirl by Jana Richman
Jana Richman’s The Last Cowgirl, chronicles the Sinfield family’s move from the Salt Lake City suburbs to a small, ill-equipped ranch near Clayton, Utah. The novel spans over a forty year period, toggling from Dickie Sinfield’s career as a successful journalist in Salt Lake City to flashbacks of her childhood. A family tragedy takes Dickie from her comfortable city life to visit the family ranch, and forces her to come to terms with her childhood.
The move from city to country satisfies her father’s cowboy fantasies. Dickie’s older brother thrives and happily sheds his city skin while her mother and older sister ignore the move and manage to carry on their lives as before. Seven years old at the time of the move, Dickie finds herself excluded from either extreme. Although there are good times with a neighboring boy, Stumpy, and a wise neighbor, Bev, Dickie, accident-prone and without a shred of self-confidence, spends much of her childhood in fear of her environment.
The novel is at times hilarious with the enactment of the cowboy lifestyle, at times sad with the struggle of being placed in an environment foreign to familiar comforts. The Last Cowgirl, however, is always entertaining with its strong characterization, vivid images of the countryside, and deep personal insights. Jana Richman’s honest approach to her characters make you feel like you’ve known them for years.
The Last Cowgirl (William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers) won the 2009 WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction.