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Friday, June 17, 2011

Rhino Ranch


Rhino Park (2009) marks the end of Duane Moore’s story, a story that Larry McMurtry began all the way back in 1966 with The Last Picture Show.  This five-book series also includes Texasville (1989), Duane’s Depressed (1999), and When the Light Goes (2007).  Along the way, Duane and his Thalia cohorts age pretty much in real time.  Duane was a high school football star in The Last Picture Show, an aging man who feels bad that he has outlived most of his old friends by the time we get to Rhino Park.

Duane and his young wife, Annie, call Patagonia, Arizona, home.  Theirs has been a rather chaste relationship since Duane suffered a heart attack that almost killed him while he and Annie were making love.  Duane knows that Annie has taken on lovers since the incident, but he has learned to live with the situation.  But, after Annie decides that even that arrangement is not good enough, Duane heads back to Thalia where he still keeps a house and his beloved cabin.

Duane might be slowing down, but Thalia is not.  K.K. Slater, said to be a billionaire, has decided that Thalia is the perfect place for her to open the Rhino Ranch, a preservation facility to ensure the survival of the endangered black rhinoceros.  Along with the ranch, comes a few new jobs, and a couple of Duane’s oldest friends suddenly become rhino wranglers. 

Despite not really wanting to have anything to do with the rhino ranch, Duane is slowly sucked into its day-to-day activity.  First, he mysteriously bonds with the biggest rhino on the ranch when it insists on walking the fence line, side-by-side with Duane, that separates the ranch from the property on which Duane’s cabin sits.  Then, he finds that K.K. Slater has a way of keeping life in Thalia interesting and starts keeping company with her and her big city friends.

Rhino Ranch is all about one man’s reflections on a life well lived.  Duane senses that his time is largely past and he is struggling to find a sense of purpose.  His friends are dead or dying (that kind of bad news just keeps pounding on him), and he is starting to feel like the Lone Ranger.  His son has taken over Duane’s oil business, there are no women in his life, and he is not all that crazy about his two daughters.  If it were not for his grandson, frankly, he would not feel particularly close to anyone in his family.

Duane Moore is one of modern literature’s memorable characters, and Larry McMurtry fans have been following his progress for literally a lifetime.  Rhino Ranch is a good way to say goodbye.

Rated at: 5.0

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