Review: True Grit by Charles Portis

True Grit Book Cover True Grit
Charles Portis
Western, Classics
Recorded Books

Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl from Dardanelle, Arkansas, sets out to avenge her Daddy who was shot to death by a no-good outlaw. Mattie convinces one-eyed "Rooster" Cogburn, the meanest U.S. marshal in the land, to ride along with her. In True Grit, we have a true American classic, as young Mattie, as vital as she is innocent, outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten men of the trail in a legend that will last through the ages.

My Review

True Grit’s strong and memorable characters, its sassy dialogue, and hard-hitting storyline makes this novel one of my favorites. I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook version of Charles Portis’s True Grit from Recorded Books and narrated by the talented Donna Tartt. Donna speaks with a southern accent that’s perfect for the voice of the young Mattie Ross.

Mattie is the story’s protagonist and narrator. She’s not your average fourteen-year-old girl. She’s bold, sassy, very religious, strong-willed, and carries her father’s rifle in a bucket. Mattie sets out to revenge her father’s death and bring his killer to justice. But she can’t take on this task alone, so she hires a gritty one-eyed lawman by the name of Rooster Cogburn.

Cogburn is one of the toughest deputy U.S. Marshals around. As Mattie repeatedly states, Cogburn is a man with true grit. Rooster doesn’t take too kindly to Mattie’s offer at first, especially since the man who killed her father is a wanderer named Tom Chaney, and he won’t be easy to get to. Even worse, Chaney has taken up with a rowdy group of outlaws known as the Lucky Ned Pepper gang.

Eventually, Rooster and Mattie come to an agreement. In time, Mattie falls sicks and ends up rooming at a boarding house. That’s where she meets a Texas Ranger. LaBoeuf, pronounced La-Beef, is a vain man, as Mattie describes him, with a cowlick. He’s also after Chaney. However, LaBoeuf and Mattie immediately get off on the wrong foot.

They part ways only to find that a day or so later, LaBoeuf is sitting in Rooster’s room and they’re discussing the issue of Chaney. Of course, these two men don’t want a little girl following them around, so they to ditch Mattie in town. But with the help of her trusty new pony, named Little Blackie, Mattie ends up following them.

After a few disagreements, Rooster allows her to come along anyway. Then the three realize that their experiences and abilities can benefit each other. I believe that’s the true theme of True Grit. Sure, there’s the raw grittiness of the character Rooster Cogburn who sets out with the help of a Texas Ranger to take down a group of outlaws in Indian Territory.

However, there’s also the satisfaction each of these three heroes gets from depending on one another. And, yes, Mattie is a heroine. I don’t want to ruin the end of the story for you but after finishing True Grit, I can easily say this story both shocked and surprised me, made me laugh and left me in awe.

I honestly offer no criticism of this book. It’s an absolute masterpiece. The audiobook’s narration was right on point with all of the characters’ voices. The story itself is quick paced and flows so smoothly that I truly believed Mattie Ross experienced all of these events and held the memories as fondly as she recounts them to us.

Each of the characters in this story seemed true to life. The plot was engaging and fascinated me until the very end. True Grit is one of the greatest novels I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, especially in such a lively way as narrated in this audiobook. I highly recommend this classic western adventure.

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