When I opened the cover, I was expecting something more of a rip-roaring adventure than what I found on the pages. (In retrospect, having seen the movies, I really shouldn't have.) It was really more of a romance. Not just even a love-triangle, more like a love-hexagon! Beware, there may be spoilers in the following...
The story revolves around the love Mr. John Curry holds for Mary Newton, a woman married to a scoundrel. Initally, John simply feels sorry for Mary as he realizes that she is a good woman and she is tied to a dirtbag in marriage (note: Mary did not know Wilber was a low life when she married him). The more John sees her, the more he comes to love her. He calls it a 'pure' love. I don't know exactly what to call it--seeing as it's a married woman and an unmarried fella, but I do know that it wasn't a lustful 'love'. John shows his true love for her, by his willingness to be non-exisitant in her world, so long as she is happy.
In time, Mary comes to also love John because he treats her with respect, honor, and dignity. She denies her feelings for John for a long time. She is faithful wife, even when Wilber treats her with disdain, distrust, and disloyalty. Wilber deserts her one day and steals everything of value from her in the process. Even then, the thought of divorce is far from her mind--indeed, it is unthinkable.
Surrounding these characters are the supporting cast of Katharine, Mary's old friend; High-Lo, a young cowboy that John rescued--these two are devoted to one another despite their ups and downs; and Magdeline, an Indian girl who plays a good sized part in the outcome of the story even though she is not a major charactor. Also there is Henley...but I won't go into him, else I might give too much away.
The Worldview: Well...I got the impression that Zane Gray believed in God--maybe even that God is soveriegn; but there was some of that early 20th century theology as well. I haven't been able to stick my finger on it exactly. Morality (based on the law of God) is good; immorality is wrong. In other words--adultery and murder are sin (two issues that could be temptations in the situation).
While you want John and Mary to be happy, there is never the sense of "Oh, just get together and everything will be alright" that seems to be prevalent in modern culture. No. To both of these characters doing the right thing, the honorable thing, is more important that what 'feels good'. I appreciated that a lot.
I'd rate this book a 4-star. That's for my uncertainty on the 'pure love' bit. I enjoyed it pretty well, but I rather doubt I this is a book I will read again. Also, I wouldn't give it to someone who can't discern between the good and the bad in the book. Something still kind of rubs me wrong about the whole situation, but the fact that it's one that you can actually see happening in real life.