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Backlands: A Novel of the American West by…

Backlands: A Novel of the American West

by Michael McGarrity

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Backlands continues Michael McGarrity’s Kerney family saga. It focuses on Matt, the third generation Kerney whose good sense and good humor reflect the loving determination of his mother Emma. His relationship with Patrick, his father, is troubled as Patrick has never been able to trust anyone nor ever trust in love.

This book takes us from the end of World War I to shortly after the invasion of Italy in World War II. It also takes us from Patrick’s childhood to his maturity. His mother, Emma, was ailing in the first novel and is dying in Backlands. She arranges Matt’s future with care, trying to protect him from his father who has lost her respect and trust. Patrick still struggles with the certainty than he will always be abandoned, continues to alienate people rather than risk his heart.

Like Hard Country, the novel moves quickly. It is sort of an anti-melodrama. Very dramatic things happen, murder, death, war, love and hatred. They are all in the mix but delivered with a laconic, understated narrative that feels so much more authentic and real than more flamboyant prose.

New Mexico is always an additional character in these novels. The land drives their lives. Matt and his father Patrick live by the seasons. When the land is kind to them, they thrive. In times of drought, they struggle. The sense of place is powerful, you can feel the heat shimmering on the parched land and be awed by the beauty and majesty of the mountains.

The novels are also peopled by interesting and well-realized secondary characters, including some passing characters who are real people, fictionalized for the story, but historically accurate. The relationships between Latinos and Anglos are realistic with some people seeing people as people and some people being the bigots that people can be. The Kerney’s have long, deep friendships among the Latino community.

The central arc of the story is the relationship between Matt and his father. He learns to respect his father and in time to understand him. Patrick is more mercurial, terrified of vulnerability and intimacy. How they move from alienation to mutual respect and even, perhaps, love is heartbreaking at times, but so very real.

I recommend this series. The novels are interesting. They are huge epic tales, but the kind of can’t put down sort of stories. I love the quiet, understated prose. I am looking forward to reading the third in the series, The Last Ranch which will be released May 17th.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/backlands-by-michael-mcgarrity/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Apr 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525953248, Hardcover)

An expansive, epic tale like Philipp Meyer’s The Son, and in the wonderful storyteller vein of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, McGarrity’s Backlands showcases his keen eye for historical detail, awe-inspiring scenery, and the bitter harshness of life on the last vestiges of the twentieth-century frontier West.
Michael McGarrity returns with the second installment of his sweeping, richly authentic New York Times bestselling American West trilogy set in the raw, untrammeled New Mexico backlands during the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II.

Hard Country, the first novel in the Kerney family trilogy and the debut prequel to his national bestselling Kevin Kerney crime novels, was critically acclaimed for its authentic, gritty realism; its sprawling, engrossing story; and its compelling, engaging characters. An instant hit on several national bestseller lists, Hard Country continues to attract an overwhelmingly positive response from critics, booksellers, and readers.

Backlands continues the story of Patrick Kerney; his ex-wife, Emma; and their young son, Matthew, shortly after the tragic battlefield death of their eldest son, CJ, at the end of World War I. Scarred by the loss of an older brother he idolized, estranged from a father he barely knows, and deeply troubled by the failing health of a mother he adores, eight-year-old Matthew is suddenly and irrevocably forced to set aside his childhood and take on responsibilities far beyond his years. When the world spirals into the Great Depression and drought settles like a plague over the nation, Matt must abandon his own dreams to salvage the Kerney ranch. Plunged into a deep trough of dark family secrets, hidden crimes, broken promises, and lies, Matt must struggle to survive on the unforgiving, sun-blasted, drought-stricken Tularosa Basin.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

Catapulted into early adulthood after the death of an older brother he idolized, eight-year-old Matthew Kerney assumes difficult responsibilities to save the family ranch against a backdrop of the Great Depression and a drought-stricken Tularosa Basin.… (more)

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