Chip of the Flying USeptember 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.