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5.0 out of 5 stars
Extraordinarily evocative yet spare prose, 8 Feb. 2000
McCarthy finds the true voice of the American West; not the absurdly one-dimensional cowboy sagas set in some corner of Arizona where life is cheap and real men drink whiskey, but the slow death of traditional cattle-ranching in Texas in the 1950s. John Brady Cole is only a teenager, albeit prematurely mature, when faced with his mother's refusal to continue operating the family ranch after splitting from his father. This is the life he has been bred for -- the novel revolves in part around his deep understanding of horses, yet uses the appearances of motor vehicles in the text to remind us that they are fast becoming ornaments and luxuries, not working beasts.
With a friend, he runs off to Mexico, where traditional horseback cow-herding is still practised, in search of a lost golden age. He finds instead mixed blessings, love, poverty, violence, misfortune, death and redemption. The themes of classic American writing are all present, but none is overblown, nor is everything quite what you expect.
You leave the novel with a powerful and pungent sense of the terrain, the people and the horses. Small details keep resurfacing, and the prose style stays with you.
I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.