Chip of the Flying U

September 22, 2014

Jenn recommended Chip of the Flying U, by B.M. Bower, about a year ago, and that’s probably how long it’s been sitting on my Kindle. I don’t know why I picked it up this weekend, except that the internet in my apartment wasn’t working and I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about anything I was more familiar with, but I’m glad I did. It’s almost entirely delightful, one of those books that does enough right that you don’t care that much about the stuff it doesn’t. And if you have to be content with a kind of ham-fisted ending, well, everything before that is so much fun that the book has kind of earned the right to fall apart in the last chapter.

The Flying U is a Montana ranch owned by James G. Whitmore, and Chip is a sensitive, artistic cow-puncher. Don’t laugh; it’s awesome. He’s got a square chin and long eyelashes and a horse he loves a lot, and it’s kind of over the top, but in a cute way. Della Whitmore is cute, too. She’s the younger sister of James G., paying an extended visit after graduation from medical school, and she’s got grey eyes and dimples to go with Chip’s chin and eyelashes.

She makes a positive first impression when she shoots a coyote with Chip’s rifle on the way back from the train station, the day of her arrival. The rest of the book is about him being in denial about being in love with her, basically. There’s no reason he should deny it, except that Della writes frequently to a Dr. Cecil Granthum. So Chip mopes, and “the Little Doctor” flirts with him and displays a fair amount of unreasonable behavior. I worry this is meant to make her seem more feminine. But more importantly, she’s good at her job, and he’s good at his, and there’s humor and artistic triumphs and a tiny bit of adventure besides. It’s a funny book and a sweet one, and while I found Della inconsistent, and Chip almost unrecognizable in the final scene, it his enough of the right buttons at the right times that I smiled my way through the entire book.


  1. I Lurved this one, too! Loved Chip and loved that Della is both feminine and accomplished. I noticed that silly female behavior, but sometimes brilliant ladies play the role.
    You should try “Jean of the Lazy A” by the same author. It’s got another strong woman character. The male lead is subdued. This is all Jean’s story. It’s also a fascinating inside look at the early Western Silent Movies. I think the author was patterning the Perils of Pauline, and I so enjoyed it.

    • Della is awesome–the thing with the kids at the party is SO GREAT–but I felt like the silliness wasn’t organic to her character, which was why it bothered me. I think Jean of the Lazy A was the other one Jenn recommended, so it’s next on the list. I love books from this era with stuff about silent movies.

  2. I have it! I will read it-eventually. Living in the west seems to predispose me toward avoiding western novels.

    • Fair enough. Bower has Chip make fun of some western stereotypes at one point, but she relies on just as many others.

  3. The Ranch at the Wolverine – definitely the one I enjoy the most! It’s got all the good points of Chip, and none of the bad ones :-)

    • That’s quite a recommendation! I’ll have to check it out.

  4. Bower is my favorite Western author, and this one (her first novel and the first I read) is still one of my favorites. You’ll find her books come in different flavors—i.e. some are more dramatic and others more humorous; while there’s always a love interest, the romance isn’t always the main focus of the story. For another early one that’s also mainly a romance, Her Prairie Knight is a favorite of mine.

    • First novels are often the best ones, especially if an author sticks with a formula. But Bower definitely seems like an author I’ll be coming back to when I want something light and fun.

  5. Hurray! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

    I hope you read Jean of the Lazy A and The Ranch at the Wolverine next. There was also one called Rim O’ The World that I think you would like the premise of: in the first chapter a wild young Western man impulsively marries a girl who has randomly hopped off the train in his town because it’s called Jumpoff and she’s fed up with life. Then they settle into marriage at his remote ranch and proceed to alienate all the neighbours with their selfishness and insularity.

  6. My sister raved about the Chip and the Jean books as soon as she read them so now I will definitely read them, but I think I’ll start with Rim O’ The World!

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