True Grit by Charles Portis is one of the only westerns I’ve read, and it is also among my favorite books of all time. It takes place in Arkansas, where I am originally from.
The tense moments throughout True Grit will keep you on your toes, especially towards the end. Also, its only 215 pages, so you can read it in one sitting. As usual, the characters make the story as great as it is.
The main character is a fourteen-year-old girl named Mattie. Mattie is a badass. She aims to avenge her father’s death. “I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” says Mattie (9 Portis). Mattie is especially remarkable when compared to other fourteen-year-olds. My younger brother, also 14 and several inches taller than me, doesn’t get off his ass for anything. However, I did get him to kill a spider for me the other day when I said: “Matthew, if you don’t kill this spider for me, you will never see that Xbox again.”
He killed the spider immediately.
Mattie recruits an asshole named Rooster Cogburn. We first see Cogburn in court, and we get an idea of his character from this brief exchange:
JUDGE PARKER: How many men have you shot in that time?
COGBURN: Shot or killed?
JUDGE PARKER: Let us restrict it to “killed” so that we may have a manageable figure. How many people have you killed since you became a marshal for this court?
COGBURN: Around twelve or fifteen, stopping men in flight and defending myself.
GOUDY: Around twelve or fifteen. So many that you cannot keep a precise count. Remember that you are under oath. I have examined the records and a more accurate figure is readily available. Come now, how many?
Mr. COGBURN: I believe them two Whartons made Twenty-three (Portis 46-47).
It takes a while for Mattie to get Cogburn to help her hunt down the coward, Tom Chaney. Throughout the book, a friendship grows between them, and you can tell that Cogburn, and the other members of their group, genuinely care about Mattie’s wellbeing. I love characters who are all tough on the outside, but have a soft spot for certain people. For example, in Supernatural, Dean Winchester always acts like a badass, but he has a soft spot for his brother, Sam. So, despite Cogburn being old, drunk and fat, I did kind of develop a crush on him, because of his caring personality behind a tough exterior.