In Riders of the Purple Sage, Zane Grey takes the reader to the small Mormon town in Utah called Cottonwoods. The novel is set in the 1870's. The novel is centered on the life of Jane WIthersteen, whose father was the founder and center of the town. Jane faces many troubles in Cottonwoods. The main one is that her cattle have been stolen by Oldring and his gang. Another is that Jane is pressured by the townspeople because she allows Gentiles to live there. She is torn between her feelings and her religion until a stranger, Lassiter, comes riding into town searching for the answers to a secret that only Jane knows the answer to.
Jane is the main character in the book. This book is different because most westerns do not center around the life of a woman. Most westerns are focused on the rough, tough, cowboy who shoots people and lives on the edge to survive. Jane is different. Her father founded the town she lives in and she keeps the town going. She is like the head of the town. She owns almost everything in the town and the landscape around it. She is very wealthy and has no biases. She likes who she likes because of who they are, not what their religion is, like the rest of the town does. The town hates that she acts like that. Jane takes Lassiter in and answers his questions about the secret. I really like that the author uses a woman in this novel because it gives a whole different perspective to a western. Most westerns focus on the cowboy and his journeys, but this book focuses on a woman, Jane, throughout the book and the troubles she encounters living in the West. It gives us a perspective of what women may have been like in the West. It still has the rough, tough cowboy, but he is not the only focus in the book. There is more happening than just the journey of a cowboy.
This book was also a pleasure to read because it does a good job of describing the landscape around Cottonwoods and in the sage. Some westerns give the reader an idea of the landscape, but this book focuses on the landscape and uses it in the book. For instance, Venters travels into the sage and hides behind the rock and in holes in the mountains and terrain around him. The landscape is used throughout the book when the characters are faced with problems such as the one described above with Venters. The landscape helped to hide him. I think it was clever to bring the landscape in and use it as part of the story. Alot of westerns do not use the landscape, they just describe it to give the reader a setting and an idea of the landscape in the book.
The book is a typical western though, because Lassiter is a typical cowboy. He has a deep secret and is in search of answers to that secret. He is a stranger that comes riding into town. He sleeps in the sage under the stars and will not sleep inside. He is on a mission and is not going to let anything or anyone get in his way. Most westerns have the cowboy meet a woman as in this story.
Overall, I think this is a good book for all sorts of readers. Zane Grey is a good writer who includes aspects for all kinds of readers. Riders of the Purple Sage is an action pact, mystery solving, all around good book for anyone who is in the mood for a western.