The Last Cowgirl
Seven-year-old Darlene (Dickie) Sinfield’s life takes an altering turn when her teacher father decides to uproot his family from Utah’s suburbs to its ranching mountains in the early 1960s. Thirty years after her escape, she returns for a midlife course correction.
Told in alternating present and coming-of-age ’60s time periods, we follow a sensitive youngest child of three as her imperfect birth family expands to include widow Bev, who loves her ranch life and Dickie’s mother, and Merv and Stumpy, an inseparable grandfather/grandson team. Dickie hangs doggedly onto both her longing for the suburbs and her best friend Holly, who betrays her at every opportunity. Traveling from the angst of youth to the darker anguish of adolescence, Dickie resents the ranching life even as both the life and Stumpy embed themselves into her being. As soon as she comes of age, she heads for Salt Lake City and her career as a journalist.
But the landscape of her youth and the deep emotional life she’s left behind exerts its pull when the tragic death of her brother brings her home. The circumstances of the death mirror a government cover up of a nerve gas accident years before, aided by a town “proficient in forgetting inconvenient facts.” But her brother’s death triggers personal reflection as well, for this woman who can only cry in the desert and who’s finally decided that thirty years is long enough to let things go unsaid between herself and the love of her life.
Lyrical and heartbreaking, The Last Cowgirl’s climb back home is sure to please readers of Pat Conroy and Barbara Kingsolver.