Book Club Discussion Questions – The Cowboy

Caution, spoilers below! Read no further here until you’ve read The Cowboy first.


  • What are some ways that things have changed in America since 1970, the year The Cowboy takes place? What are some ways that things have not changed in America since 1970?


  • In what ways are Bobby’s perceptions of America’s Old West true? In what ways are they idealized? In what ways are they completely false?


  • What do Bobby’s fantasies about gunfights reveal about who he is and what he wants to defend? What do those fantasies reveal about how he believes right and wrong are decided?


  • How are Bobby’s decisions influenced by the heroes and stories of the fictionalized Old West he’s seen on television?


  • How has the Old West and its heroes, as portrayed in popular culture and in traditional history lessons, influenced the way Americans view themselves? How might that be different for White Americans than for Native Americans? For African Americans? For Latinx Americans?


  • Why does Bobby so easily bond with Junior? Why does he want so desperately to defend him and rescue him, even if it means running away from the parents he loves?


  • What does Mexico represent for Bobby? Is there another reason, aside from escaping Animal Control, that Bobby would believe he needs to leave America’s borders to make Junior safe?


  • Does the Coffey family name have any significance for you? Does the Wallace name have significance for you? Does the name Junior have significance for you?


  • Consider the relationship between Bobby and his mother, Connie. How is Bobby’s love for her different at the end of the story than it was at the beginning? How is it deeper? How is it more fragile?


  • Consider the relationship between the two veterans in the story, Charlie and Dwayne. What causes them to bond despite their differences? What does each of them get from their relationship?


  • Consider Ed and Connie’s marriage. How is it healthy? How is it unhealthy? How do you interpret Connie’s explanation for why she left home? For why she returned?


  • How does Connie’s newfound relationship with Jesus change her? What is Aaron’s role in Connie’s life, and in what ways is he important directionally for the story?


  • What is the main message of the story of the Kumeyaay bird songs as told by Manuelita’s great-grandfather? How does that story relate to Bobby? Why is Bobby grateful for the great-grandfather’s final words to him?


  • Consider the Lee Wallace character. In what ways did you sympathize with him? Did you resist when you found yourself wanting to sympathize with him, and if so, why?


  • How were Wallace’s actions concerning the Coffey family justifiable in his mind?


  • In the final scene with Wallace, what significance did you find in the ones who apprehended him?


  • How did Bobby demonstrate his strength of character as he endured the effects of his injuries? What role did Junior play in helping Bobby through his physical difficulties?


  • In the final scene in the desert, what did getting the bus running again mean to you? How was it significant that Ed and Aaron were the mechanics?


  • Do you wish you had a letter from your mother like Robert found in the epilogue? If you’re a parent, do you think it would be a good idea to write such a letter to your children?


If you have comments on any of these points, or any others after reading The Cowboy, feel free to reach out to the author though the Contact form.