Folly and Glory

Written by Larry McMurtry
Review by Alice Logsdon

Book 4 of the Berrybender Narratives begins with the family living under house arrest in Santa Fe. Tasmin Berrybender Snow, grieving over the death of her close friend, Pomp Charbonneau, has given birth to twins. Her frontiersman husband, Jim Snow, known widely as the Sin Killer, leads supply trains across the plains for the Bent brothers while waiting for his family’s release. While happy to be in a somewhat more civilized place, the surviving Berrybenders and their staff just want to go home, with the possible exception of Lord Berrybender, who is as intractably insensitive as ever.

There are kernels of truth embedded in this improbable saga. The American West was an unpredictable, lawless place to be in the 1830s. Even the most experienced frontiersmen were susceptible to its dangers, notably the extremes of climate, hostile natives, and unforgiving terrain. Most people aren’t physically or emotionally equipped to deal with these variables. Even the most adaptable person has limits.

Larry McMurtry is a keen observer of man and nature. He’s a great storyteller with a knack for realistic, witty dialogue. That said, I was unhappy with this novel. The pacing was rushed, with too many predicaments crammed in. Characters were sketchy and undeveloped, and story lines concluded haphazardly, with more than one bloody death. The tone was much darker than any of the first three Berrybender novels. Overall, I get the feeling that what had started out as a great idea, enthusiastically embraced, became more of a chore towards the end, and that an obligation to wrap things up a certain way overshadowed all else.