Author: Michael McGarrity
Publisher: Dulton Adult, 2012
I am doing much of my reading these days on either my Kindle or my iPad as I have taken to using them for ease of use while reading in bed or traveling, and while I am using one my husband can be reading the same book on the other. Otherwise we are sometimes grumbling as to who gets to read a new book first. And that is exactly what happened with this one. I bought it in hard cover and he wanted to read it first. Since it is over 600 pages long, it took awhile before I could have it in my grubby little mitts. Luckily he loved it so he whipped through it in just a few days and assured me that I was going to love it, too. He equated it with the much loved book Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. After reading it I am not sure I would go quite that far but it certainly comes close and is most certainly a saga, as was Lonesome Dove, but is set mainly in New Mexico, not Montana. It takes us through three generations of a family beginning in 1875, and ending in 1918.
The story begins with John Kerney who has traveled to Texas to start a new life with his young bride, Mary Alice, after having fought in the Civil War. We are quickly drawn into the starkness of that life when we are given a brief glimpse of her hard life as she dies giving birth, alone, leaving behind a barely living newborn son. Kerney discovers this grisly scene upon returning home with his sister-in-law, Ida, whom he had gone to get for help with his wife’s delivery. Not knowing what else to do he takes his new son to his brother’s homestead, several miles away, only to discover his brother and young son have been killed and their horses stolen. Ida is hysterical when she sees her family dead and only reluctantly and bitterly agrees to take the newborn and raise him. John promises her that he will return for his son when he feels he has a home to bring him to. He also vows to find out who killed her husband and son. Leaving everything behind he heads out, guilt and grief stricken, to somehow find a new life for himself.
Kerney is fortunate in making the acquaintance of Cal Duran during his travels. Duran becomes an integral part of the story. With him Kerney is able to establish a ranch which will allow him to have a home to raise his son. Finding his son and returning home with him is a long and tortuous journey, full of deceit and heartbreak. Even when found, Patrick, as he was named before being given up, has had a very difficult childhood which has affected him in such a way as to make him unable to give of himself to others. He trusts nobody, a trait that follows him all of his life. The one person he feels that he can trust the most is Cal Duran, who luckily, is more than willing to become his surrogate father. Although Kerney would like to be Patrick’s father, Patrick is not willing to let him take that role.
Along with a Mexican, Ignacio, the three of them are able to make a life in the hard country of New Mexico. Later, Patrick takes a wife, Emma, a young woman who has been rescued by him and Duran when they found her held captive in the home of someone they were visiting. She resists the idea of marriage at first but finally agrees when she sees that he will treat her fairly, if not with the love she might have wished for. Her presence on the ranch and as a part of the lives of the family plays a huge part in the last third of the book.
This book is full of all that makes a western full of excitement. Apaches are still on the war path. Forts are being built to keep them at bay. Homesteads are being established with unbelievable amounts of hard work and sacrifice. Droughts and floods make their way into the workings of all who live in this “Hard Country.” The “bad guys” are stealing cattle and horses. The “good guys” are out hunting them down, though sometimes the line between who is a “good guy” and who is a “bad guy” is difficult to see as they are often a little of both. We are side tracked into seeing Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba when Patrick signs up to join the Spanish-American War. And later in the book we find Patrick’s and Emma’s son, CJ, fighting in France during World War One.
Through all of this we see love and hate, happiness and anguish, all set in the wide open spaces of New Mexico as more and more people head that way to make their home and seek their fortune.
As I said, this is a book both my husband and I enjoyed very much. It is not a man’s book or a woman’s book, but a book to be devoured by both with equal amounts of pleasure.
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.