As I mentioned yesterday, this is a short story and it moves fast. One moment the men are discussing sheep and the next moment they are gettin' it on and you find yourself into the meat of the story already and you've only read 14 pages. Which I love. I hate short stories that seem to drag and then end abruptly and I'm left trying to figure out what I just read. This short story had a definite, albeit abbreviated, beginning, middle, and an end.
The book itself is very well written and the author seems to have a clear grasp of what cowboys are like. My main problem? I don't like cowboys and the whole culture that surrounds them. I don't like the tough guy who always maintains this macho exterior, especially if it serves to perpetuate a stereotype. I had very little sympathy for these two men who never talked about what went on between them other than to say things like, "I'm not no queer" or "Me neither. One shot thing. Nobody's business but ours."
I didn't find either of the main characters all that likable. Jack married just for money, and while Ennis seemed to have liked his wife Alma at one time, he doesn't show a lot of interest in providing for their children and he has no respect for Alma's feelings. He even insists on doing things in the bedroom that she has clearly stated she hates. There is a particularly haunting passage in the book when Alma asks Jack to wear a condom because she doesn't want another pregnancy. When Jack refuses, she thinks to herself, "anyway, what you like to do don't make too many babies." It was really painful to read how Jack's fear and hatred of himself caused him to hurt the ones he had committed to love and care for.
I'm not going to reveal the ending here but I will say that at first I felt it was rather predictable. But after some thought, I think that given the time and place that these two men lived, the love story could really have ended only one way.
Although I didn't really like the two main characters, I admit I wouldn't want to be in their shoes and be faced with dealing with certain emotions and feelings that are considered unacceptable in the cruel world they live in. I loved the story and I think it's sticking with me much more than I thought it would. It's incredibly layered and sad and ultimately much more complex than just two cowboys in love.