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The Way West cover
December 2005
The Way West
by A.B. Guthrie Jr.

Winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, A.B. Guthrie’s The Way West charts the journey of a wagon train from Missouri to Oregon. Sweeping in its depiction of the Western landscapes traversed, the novel is also filled with insight into the everyday details of human nature, exploring not only the physical trials involved in such an arduous journey but also the motivations for undertaking it in the first place. Lije Evans, the fair-minded and well-respected man who ends up leading the train, and Dick Summers, the mountain man who is showing the way (a recurring character in several of Guthrie’s Western novels), anchor the story. But Guthrie also lets us walk alongside many other members of the train at various times, shifting the point of view to show the same events through more than one set of eyes. His eloquent but never overly romantic prose puts the reader fully in the setting and the moment, whether it’s a massive buffalo stampede, a treacherous river crossing, a poignant death, a matter-of-fact frontier wedding, or the everyday heroics required simply to keep the people and animals fed and the wagons rolling ever westward.

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Blurbs from the book cover

Card catalog entry from the Library of Congress

Publisher’s information page from Houghton Mifflin information page

Barnes and Noble information page

Works by A.B. Guthrie Jr.

Alfred Bertram “Bud” Guthrie Jr.

Literary Kentucky, an essay by Gurney Norman found on our Living by Words site, traces Guthrie’s legacy as a writing teacher at the University of Kentucky.

Films based on Guthrie works from the Internet Movie Database [Note from the bookclub panel: The movie version of The Way West does not do the book justice.]

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