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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671040588, Mass Market Paperback)Master storyteller Larry McMurtry unfurls a short, bright banner of a book following the fortunes of the Cecil family as they travel from Boone's Lick, Missouri, to the Western frontier. Though the story is narrated by her oldest son, 15-year-old Shay, the real hero of the book is Mary Margaret, the mother. Her husband, Dick, has left her and their four children in Boone's Lick while he seeks his fortunes in the West. Mary Margaret lives contentedly with the children and Dick's brother, Seth, until one day she decides she's had enough of playing the estranged wife and packs up the entire household. And so the Cecil family leaves their little town (where Wild Bill Hickok makes a cameo appearance) and travels by wagon to Wyoming, accompanied along the way by a fat Québecois priest and a Shoshone. They do find Dick, and they also arrive in Wyoming just in time for the 1866 Fetterman Massacre.
McMurtry writes with an ease that younger writers would do well to emulate. Here Seth fights off an ambush of white trash dastards:
Uncle Seth fired again and a third horse went down--though just saying it went down would be to put it too mildly. The third horse turned a complete somersault. Its rider flew off about thirty feet, after which he didn't move."'It's rare to see a horse turn a flip like that,' Uncle Seth observed." That cool "observed" gives an idea of the book's wry, pervasive humor. But there's more here than shooting and quipping: McMurtry's wagon full of frustrated Missourians makes a fine narrative vehicle: we get a first-hand account of the Native American wars; we get the perspective of the women left behind in the opening of the West; we get a wagon's-eye view of the hard journey of the settlers; and, ultimately, we get an insightful family romance. All that, and scalpings too. --Claire Dederer
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:04 -0400)
In the Missouri town of Boone's Lick, a colorful cast of characters stands on the edge of the Western frontier ready to push west to Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming.
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