Boone’s Lick

Written by Larry McMurtry
Review by Steve Lewis

Boone’s Lick is the small settlement in Missouri where 15- year-old Shay Cecil (who narrates the story) grew up in the 1860s, along with his Ma, his Uncle Seth, Granpa Crackenthorp, a brother and two sisters. Pa (Seth’s brother) shows up only now and then, but to Shay that wasn’t remarkable. In his own words: “I always thought we were just an ordinary family–and maybe we were; but then, maybe we weren’t.” That was after discovering that the local saloon girl Rosie McGee was really Aunt Rosie, and that his mother had almost married Seth instead of Pa. Fifteen years is old enough to learn some family history. It just takes some handling, that’s all. When Ma decides she’s done waiting for Pa’s next visit, and that it’s time for her and the whole family to hunt him down – clear out in Wyoming – Shay begins to realize that life is full of changes, and surprises, and growing up.

Gently humorous, solidly nostalgic and filled with homespun sentiment, this honest portrayal of family life on the frontier of the American movement west is also compulsively readable. Not a deep story, but one that’s full of cheer, even in hard times, and a full sense of the small, quiet miracles of life.