65 y/o father of two sons. Married 25 yrs. Audible member for 8 yrs. I can hardly read books with my eyes any more. I love reviewing.
You might not expect a story set in Southeastern Mississippi to be so poignant and so
completely involving. (I apologize to all Mississippians). The title refers to the method in which
children are taught the spelling of their state's name. However, the story and the characters here are so thoroughly, so brilliantly conceived that the book holds your interest in a spellbinding way. Virtually any other book will find that this one is a hard act to follow. The primary characters, Larry Ott and Silas (who is known as 32) have a story to tell that draws you in and grabs you by the brain and heart. I searched for Tom Franklin's other work, and was disappointed to find how little there is. Very hard to make a living as a writer these days, no matter how breathtaking your talent is. I can rave about other books, but I can't rave hard enough to do this one justice. The two men have intertwining life stories that encircle each other in a way that constantly surprises you. Justice, that wonderful construct (in the abstract) follows them for twenty or thirty years of their lives. I won't spoil the plot or the nature of these two men for you: the delight is in your own discovery. The secondary characters are also extremely well drawn, although the women are less so than the men, as we have come to expect, even from the best of our male writers these days. One of the women turns out to have an absolutely critical role. I will say little more, except to tell Tom Franklin, if he happens to be reading, to bear up and be brave: his talent is almost matchless. We are out here reading, and we are waiting for him to write again.
Larry McMurtry wrote this book about twenty-five years ago. It is still amazing. No matter what you think about westerns, this book is so involving that, once you get into it a little ways, you will be so entertained that you will finish the book and never forget it. The book was made into a TV miniseries starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall. The series was way popular. Duvall said that it was the peak of his acting career.
I had never heard of Lee Horsley, but he was a narrator with enough talent to do a great job; sometimes a great book gets a less-then-great narrator, and the product is not good. The plot of the book involves two famed Texas Rangers named Captain Woodrow Call and Captain Augustus MacRae. Both of these men are fascinating characters, and they develop throughout the book. They,and a bunch of cowboys whom they recruit, embark on an astounding cattle drive. From the Rio Grande (from the dusty, hot town that gives the book its name) north and west all the way to Montana, they drive 3000 head of cattle over and through many rivers, many threatening weather events (including lightning which literally strikes for hours, and strikes so strong that the eyes turn completely white; and the strikes are so close to the cowboys and to one other key character, a whore named Lorena, who is just as fascinating as the Captains) and other remarkable experiences. Have any of you ever been in a grasshopper cloud? The grasshoppers descend so quickly and in such large numbers that the cowboys and the horses are instantly breathing grasshoppers, beating them off their shirts, and discovering that their only option is to endure the torment for hours, until it is finally over. There is, as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas used to say, nowhere to run to, baby; nowhere to hide.
The other unbelievable, and often fatal peril, is Indians. They were not called Native Americans in the late 1800s. The men, the worst of them, were brutal, terrifying killers. They stalked across the plains, and anywhere else they lived, and their lives were so brutal, their hatred for the white man (and one black man in the cast) that they could sneak up on people in utter silence, and then attack with such ferocity that they killed their victims immediately. One particular monster among the Indians is a man named Blue Duck, who is so frightening that you cringe when you hear his name. In addition to the above, he is so cruel and inhuman that I will not describe him further.
McMurtry's gift for interweaving plots involving completely separate people is amazing. You get really interested in one group for a while, and then he shifts to another group, and then another. The whore Lorena is one of the best-developed people in the whole book, just as fascinating as Gus and Call. Her story is pitiful and gradually becomes a story of truly extraordinary love. The relationship between Lorena and Gus is so tender that it rings completely true. It is a relationship that easily could exist now, between two people who are truly, madly, deeply in love with each other. The relationship between Gus and Call is also extraordinary, and unique in my experience of books of any age. It is a marriage of sorts, also so tender at times that you understand it deeply in your heart. They literally would die for each other. Very literally.
Anyway, this is the longest review I have ever written. Enough about my opinion. I would love to hear yours.
Clearly I had never heard of Tonino Benacquista before. I have, however, become something of a student of Edoardo Balerini. I would be the president of his fan club, were he to have one. The man has engaged and entertained me in a way which beggars description. This book is the story of an Italian gangster and his family, who go into the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) after he testifies against his former colleagues. The family ends up in a small town in Normandy, the name of which I swear to you sounds something like Schlong-sur-Mer. The gangster takes the name of Fred Baker, and tries to convince an entire town bristling with French gossips that he is a writer, engaged in some magnum opus mysterioso. His wife and chldren are dragged most unhappily into this fiasco. It is torture for them to keep the lie going, but of course it is essential that they pull it off, as unspeakable deaths await them if they fail. Mr. Baker's real name is Giovanni Menzano, I believe. The wife and kids have to invent names and full identities for themselves. They have one so-called friend, who is their supervisor in the WITSEC program, a man named Tom Quintiliani. (Please forgive me if I am messing up these names: it is very hard to memorize names when you are laughing out loud at the story, and at the exquisite predicament this family is in.)
Edoardo Balerini has now reached a pinnacle (in my mind) which no other living narrator has ever come close to. It's not just that he's Italian; you can hear the pronunciation of his own name sound more Italian with each book. Since the book is set in France, Mr. Balerini must master a large variety of French accents and individual speech proclivities. You just cannot imagine how funny this is until you hear it. It is easy for Americans to make fun of the French, for reasons which have little to do with this book in particular (they are, though, so ENTIRELY full of themselves): please stop me now before I become quite tasteless. The plot ambles around in a good-natured sort of way. I actually got lost, as I was reading about four other books at the same time, and I discovered that it was a complete pleasure to start this book from the very beginning again. I realized that some of the jokes had just filtered through my cortex without being stored in memory (a fancy and preposterous way of saying that I forgot them), and so each was funny anew. This one is a winner. I hope Mr. Benacquisto has more up his sleeve. From the sounds of Mr. Balerini's voices I would guess him to be in his forties: how very, very lucky for us.