Ajax-loader

On ​a ranch in southeastern Texas, soon after World War II, a group of solitary, inarticulately lonely men gathers to work animals as the sun sets for good on the mythic American West. All of these men nurse losses both personal (siblings or wives) and collective (a shared lifestyle and philosophy). Among them is John Grady Cole, the adolescent hero of the first book in Cormac McCarthy’s Border trilogy, All the Pretty Horses. John Grady remains the magnificent horseman he always was, and he still dreams too much. On the ranch, he meets Billy Parham, whose own tragic sojourn through Mexico in The Crossing, the second book of the set, continues to quietly suffocate him. The two form a friendship that will nurture both but save neither from the destiny that McCarthy’s characters always sense lurching to meet them.

Soaked in storm-heavy atmosphere but brightened by the ranch-hands’ easy camaraderie and gentle humor, Cities of the Plain surprises with its sweetness. The awkward doomed-romance plot at the center of this tight, concise novel fails to convince, but, remarkably, does little to undercut the book’s impact. What lingers here, and what matters, are the brooding, eerie portraits of the plains and the riders, glimpsed mostly alone but occasionally leaning together, who slip across them, over the horizon into memory. —Glen Hirshberg

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