A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writes about his three years with a family that is trying to make ends meet on a Utah ranch by dabbling in the rodeo, unfurling a history of the American West in the process.
John Branch’s new book ... shows...that the ranching life glorified by the sport is full of hard work, and—in the early 21st century—even harder choices ... Like Mr. Branch’s first book, The Last Cowboys is informed by scrupulous and compassionate reporting, casting light on a side of the sporting world typically hidden from view ... The Last Cowboys probes the human connections that play such a profound—if unseen—role in shaping the finished product that spectators consume ... The book will surely find an audience among rodeo fans, for whom the Wrights are household names. But it may be of even greater interest to readers unfamiliar with its subjects.
Branch, a reporter for The New York Times who first covered the Wrights for the newspaper, embedded with the family for more than three years—access nearly unheard of at a time when athletes prefer to tweet than talk to reporters. The book also has uncommon ambition: It’s a story not just of rodeo, but of the contemporary West ... To his credit, Branch avoids the sentimentalism that can seep into such a tale. He also does an impressive job of making the rodeo life come off the page.
Branch...spent more than three years getting to know this unusual clan. The result is a work that’s rich in detail and which consistently rings true. And he writes in a fashion that’s not dissimilar from how these cowboys live: clearly, boldly, and unambiguously, the sharp edges softened with understated humor and pithy observations ... Branch captures not just the thrill of bronc riding, but its absolute unpredictability ... Branch has given us a real-life story that’s not only compelling, but oddly reassuring.