2 out of 4 stars
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Alone on Pasture Ridge by J.R. Hightower is a work of fiction set in southern New Mexico in the late 1870s. Written in the third-person point of view, the narrative takes readers to the Wild West as it follows the account of Rob Wilson and his best friend, Jessie Hatfield.
After losing his parents and sister to typhoid fever in the span of a few weeks, Rob is distraught and goes through the motions while questioning the tragic events in his life. He quickly decides he can’t stand to stay at his family’s ranch, as it reminds him of the loss he wishes to heal from. With the help of Jesse, who also lost his parents, Rob is able to say goodbye to his family and home for the last time. As soon as the ranch is sold, the two young men leave their woes in Texas to explore new lands in New Mexico, all with the hopes of starting anew and building their own ranch. However, though they achieve great strides and make a couple of friends along the way, their journey isn’t all smooth sailing, as they also make a number of foes, experience setbacks, and encounter perils that threaten their lives and livelihood.
One of the highlights of this novel is that there are good evocative descriptions of landmarks, landscapes, and places the characters visited and settled in. This truly gave me the sense that I was there exploring, gathering, and building alongside them. Another plus was the detailed descriptions of the scrumptious meals the characters had. Additionally, it was always easy to tell who was speaking thanks to the characters having distinct voices mostly in terms of vocabulary, mannerisms, and accents.
Unfortunately, the narrative was marred by a number of glaring issues that were hard to ignore. First, the author’s writing was flat, as it lacked emotion and action. As a result, even the bits of humor weaved into the dialogue felt rather dry. Because the writing consisted of more ‘telling’ than ‘showing’, the plot suffered – it was unexciting, unmoving, and things just seemed to happen. Next, there were a few times when the dialogue felt unnatural and forced with unnecessary details, especially Rob’s conversations with the banker and when he’d mention the occupation of family members without being asked. Another issue was that there were too many dialogue tags, even when it was obvious who was speaking based on context, people present, and names mentioned in the conversation. What made the overuse of the tags even more obvious was the monotonous use of dialogue tags ‘said’ and ‘asked’, which brings me to the next issue. At times, the two tags were used interchangeably; even when a character posed a question, the tag ‘said’ was used instead of the question tag ‘asked’, which I found quite distracting.
In Location 698, Jesse asked a question that went unanswered; this made me feel like something was missing from that part of the narrative. The romance element would have been a good subplot; however, it fell short, and like other parts of the story, it was told, making it hard to feel connected to it. In addition to all the issues mentioned above, I encountered numerous grammatical and punctuation errors, such as missing articles, missing punctuation marks (commas and periods), missing opening quotations, etc. And although at times the main cast interacted with each other in interesting ways, the characters were either two-dimensional or one-dimensional. Thus, I didn’t find myself captivated or invested in the characters entirely. Factoring everything, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars.
Aside from the brief mention of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s exploration of the Llano Estacado, there isn’t much in the way of actual historical figures or events incorporated into the storyline. Thus, if you’re a historical buff looking to get your hands on a historical fiction filled with historical accuracies and information about that period, this book isn’t for you. However, this may appeal to those who gravitate towards new beginnings out in the wild and building and protecting a ranch.
Alone on Pasture Ridge
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