Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison: Book Review

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Whiskey When We're Dry by John Larison Book Cover
Title: Whiskey When We're Dry
Content Warning: Violent Death, Addiction, Alcoholism

My Synopsis:

At the age of seventeen, Jessilyn Harney dresses like a man and sets out to find her brother, Noah, a train robber and outlaw. A sharpshooter herself, she’s all alone in the world with nowhere else to go. Her search takes her to the very men hunting Noah. But family is family and she’ll do what she has to in order to find her brother again.

My Review:

I’m not a huge fan of Westerns but this book caught my eye when a friend of a friend mentioned it on Facebook. I really enjoyed it. There’s no denying the Western background but the themes of family, love, and loss are universal.

I would actually recommend this for a book club. Jess’s mother died in childbirth and Jess has always felt there’s a hole in her life. That loss drives a lot of her decisions. There are themes of “good guys” and “bad guys” and is anyone truly one or the other? Who makes that distinction? There are race/slavery issues, men’s honor, women’s rights…. There’s really a lot to unpack and discuss here.

The characters are remarkably well drawn. Jess practically steps off the page. The book is written in first person so we know all her thoughts and regrets. Even while she was making some really poor decisions, my heart ached for her in her complete and utter loneliness. Her father and brother are complex, as are many of the other characters.

I listened to this on audio and while Sophie Amoss did do a remarkable job, her narration was so slow, I didn’t think I was ever going to finish! For the first time ever, I tried increasing the playback speed to 1.2 but that was just a bit too fast for my Southern ears; I really had to pay close attention. I’m usually cleaning or driving when I listen to audiobooks so I had to slow it back down to normal speed. And every character in the book spits every couple of sentences. I can’t express how much I hope to never hear the word spat again after listening to this book for over fifteen hours. I probably would have noticed that even in print but it really drove me crazy on audio.

Don’t let that Western genre throw you off; you can really get lost in this book. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something with rich characters and a plot that’s enjoyable while having some depth.

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  1. I’m sorry for laughing about this, but the whole spat/ spit thing made me grin. That conjured up images from so many old Western movies! The premise is interesting and that title — whiskey when you’re dry — is so attention grabbing.

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