In 1832, Lord Albany Berrybender chartered a steamboat to take him up the Missouri River on a hunting expedition. Albany is one of the richest aristocrats in England, and also a dissolute, selfish, old fool. Along for the ride are his wife Constance, six of their fourteen spoiled children, fifteen of nineteen servants, including a cellist and a botanist, an aging parrot named Prince Talleyrand, the staghound Tintamarre, and a gaggle of American talent hired to ease their way, including Toussaint Charbonneau, the guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition many years previous.
In FOLLY AND GLORY, it's now three books and almost 4 years later into the saga, and what remains of the Berrybender party is under house arrest by the Mexican government in Santa Fe, now having been there for more than one and a half years. It's been time enough for Tasmin to give birth to twins, Petey and Petal, Bess to deliver Elphinstone, and Vicky to give Lord Albany another son, Randall. But Mexico is expecting trouble in its Texas province, so the central government decides to transfer the troublesome Americans and English in its New Mexico territory overland to Veracruz - a long and dangerous journey, and an opportunity for author Larry McMurtry to kill off superfluous characters so there are fewer lose ends to tie up at the series conclusion. Of the four books, FOLLY AND GLORY is the bloodiest and, if you've grown to care about the central characters, perhaps the most distressing.
I'd finally come to be absorbed in the serialized plot by the end of Book Three (BY SORROW'S RIVER), and I was hoping for at least a four-star finish. But, it wasn't to be. After a spasm of death and killing - separating the wheat from the chafe - the final sixty pages straggle to a contrived and, for me, unsatisfying conclusion. Perhaps McMurtry had a publisher's deadline to meet, or maybe he just started out with too many characters. I mean, Lord Berrybender dying gloriously with Davy Crockett at the Alamo? Oh, puhleeze!
The most interesting persona to be introduced at this late stage is Petal, Tasmin's extraordinarily willful and difficult daughter. It would be amusing to see McMurtry build a new series around her, but I doubt that Larry has that left in him at this point in his writing career, of which LONESOME DOVE is perhaps the undisputed high water mark.
The entirety of the Berrybender series was, in retrospect, mildly engaging at best. After giving it spasmodic attention over three years, I can now move on.