Hi Sandy! Welcome to the KH Forum!
I hate that pattern too. It just seems so frustrating, because you tend to forget which stitch you should be doing from row to row. You want to avoid doing ribbing, so just knit the purls, and purl the knits. Hopefully, that makes sense to you.
The stitch pattern is a multiple of 6 + 3, so you could decrease the amount of stitches if you don't want it as wide as they recommend.
You could cast on 39 stitches for a narrow shawl, or 45 stitches, or 51 stitches.