Mini classic review: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheepherder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer. 

Both men work hard, marry, and have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it.

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“I wish I knew how to quit you.”

No one was more surprised than me when I found out that the movie Brokeback Mountain was based on a novella. So when I discovered this fact, I immediately had to read the short story.

The story follows two very different young men in the 1960s, Ennis and Jack, who end up working on the same sheep farm over a few summers on Brokeback Mountain. And one night, the two men sleep together and end up in a full-blown affair for the next twenty years, which may be catastrophic for their families.

The short story is about forbidden love and the tragedy of it. Ennis and Jack have a strong relationship and you can’t help but root for them, but can feel the despair hanging over both men through Proulx’s engaging writing. It’s very difficult to write a compelling story in only 55 pages, but Proulx manages it. She also manages to weave together story lines from Ennis and Jack’s wives along with the main plot line, which is incredibly clever.

Brokeback Mountain is a very heartbreaking story, and although I mainly enjoyed it, it’s not really one I would recommend. You obviously go into the story knowing it’s a queer tragedy, but I know that very few queer people are looking to read stories like this.

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