Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review: Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy

I finally got around to reading the third and final book of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy.  (Cormac McCarthy also wrote No Country for Old Men.)

First, was All the Pretty Horses.  In this book, the main character, 16 year old John Grady Cole, runs away after his grandfather dies and he learns the family ranch is going to be sold.  He heads south to Mexico with his buddy, Lacey Rawlins, where he experiences things that most grown men could not handle.  It is a tragic, deep, adventurous, slightly dark, and sometimes funny (especially that Belvins) coming of age story. You can't help but absolutely adore John Grady. 

I loved this book.  The prose is beautiful, the characters are deep, and the story makes you feel something.  The boys lifestlye is so simple, yet complicated and very different than my own.  They lived day to day with what was in there pocket and on there back.  There is omething about living off the land and calling no place home that is romantic and appealing.

Second, was The Crossing.  The plot had no connection to All the Pretty Horses.  Although, it was another coming of age tale set in the southwest and Mexico, it is the story of Billy Parham and brother Boyd.  They set out for Mexico to retrieve their family's stolen horses, surely unaware of the perils they will face. 

Being that I only have a sister, I have always been intrigued by the relationship of brothers. The relationship of Billy and Boyd wass what I can only expect is typical of a set of 16 and 14 year old boys.  While All the Pretty Horses was tragic, the Crossing took tragedy to a whole new level.  Think Hardy Boys meets Legends of the Falls meets the southwest.

The final installment of the trilogy was Cities of the Plain.  John Grady Cole (of All the Pretty Horses ) and Billy Parham (of the Crossing) are working on a ranch together.  Where each character was between the end of their respective stories and Cities of the Plain is never revealed to the reader, which frustrated me greatly. 

The story again was set in the southwest (New Mexico this time) and Mexico.  John Grady falls in love with a 14 year old girl who works in a Mexican whore house.  They are in love, and he will do whatever it takes to marry her and give her a better life.

I was highly disappointed in this book.  The plot was weak.  There were lots of characters whose names I could not keep straight who played no real role in the story.  John Grady was completely irrational; I think he was meant to be potrayed as romantic, but I found him insane.  And the ending was anticlimatic and shocking (Yes, I realize anticlimactic and shocking are almost antonyms, but trust me, it was both).  I didn't expect it to end happily ever after, but really?!  After investing so much in both characters, I was thoroughly disappointed with the outcomes of their lives.

McCarthy's writing style was beautiful and similar to the first two books of the trilogy, but the story itself was lackluster.  If I had read Cities of the Plain first, I doubt I would have picked up any other works by McCarthy. 

While I don't recommend Cities of the Plain, I still highly recommend All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing.

Have you ever been disappointed by the end of a series?