Riders of the Purple Sage


Title: Riders of the Purple Sage

Author: Zane Grey

Publication Date: 1912

Number of Pages: 265

Genre: Western

Geographical Setting: South Utah

Time Period: 1871

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Jane Withersteen is a single wealthy Mormon woman living in the canyon country of southern Utah in 1871 managing the ranch and surrounding property, which includes valuable spring water, she has inherited from her late father. When Jane refuses to succumb to pressure and marry Tull, a church elder who practices polygamy, she comes under attack from the Mormon community. As punishment for her refusal to submit to the directives of the Church elders, Jane faces ever increasing persecution from her fellow Mormon brethren. Bern Venters, a Gentile rider whom Jane has befriended, is captured and about to be whipped because of her association with him when an infamous gunman and Mormon killer named Lassiter arrives and prevents the punishment. Lassiter who is searching for information about the mysterious death of his sister and the fate of her young daughter finds himself drawn to Jane and Fay, the Gentile child she has adopted, and decides to stay at Withersteen Ranch to help her defend it while Venters heads into the canyons to follow the trail of a gang of cattle rustlers and a masked rider who rides with them. Jane, grateful for Lassiter’s help, sees this as an opportunity to persuade Lassiter to turn away from his life of violence.  As Jane struggles to hold on to Fay and her property in the face of evil, secrecy, and escalating pressure, she finds herself questioning her Mormon faith and the beliefs she has always lived by.

Subject Headings: Texas Rangers; Outlaws — Texas; Women Ranchers; Gunfighters; Western Stories.

Appeal: deliberate, measured, compelling, introspective, reflective characters, inner struggle, strong women, heroic loners, complex storyline, multiple plot lines, action-oriented at times, resolution, redemption, American old west,  detailed settings of mountains and canyons in Utah, evocative descriptions of landscape, bittersweet, contemplative, darker, lyrical, cowboy jargon

Three terms that best describe this book: evocative descriptions of landscape, inner struggles, classic western

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Searchers by Alan Le May – Classic western about a Texas Ranger who searches for years for his niece taken prisoner by Comanche raiders. (American old west, searching for missing family members, inner struggles, resolution).

The Warriors Path by Louis L’ Amour – Two brothers in search of a sister-in-law who has been kidnapped travel from colonial America to Jamaica to find her and her kidnappers. White men, hoping to exploit tensions between settlers and the Indians are behind the kidnappings. (Searching for missing family members, action-oriented, villains using others as scapegoats- Mormons used cattle rustlers in Grey novel).

Trail to Cottonwood Falls:  A Ralph Compton Novel by Dusty Richards – Former ranger and cattle driver trying to redeem himself must contend with enemies as he drives a woman rancher’s cattle west. (Strong man fighting against determined enemies, woman ranchers, gunfighters, cattle drives).

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

The Sisterhood: Inside the Lives of Mormon Women by Dorothy Allred Solomon – History of Mormon women in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.

Painters of Utah’s Canyons and Deserts by Donna Poulton – Collection of 300 paintings and artists’ anecdotes that portray the visual beauty and majesty of Utah’s geography as well as the dangers of the Utah frontier.

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer – Two brothers believing they are acting under direct orders from God murder two family members. The story explores the beliefs and hidden world of Mormon fundamentalism.

Name: Maggie

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