I began 2015 hoping finally to read some of the books that have been sitting on my bookshelves, almost untouched, for the past decade or two...or three. So far, I have read six books from the past; 2003's By Sorrow's River is the fourth of them to be reviewed.
By Sorrow’s River is the third book in Larry McMurtry's four-book series known as "The Berrybender Narratives."
By the beginning of this book, the Berrybender family and its traveling party have several fewer members than they had at the beginning of Lord Berrybender's quest to kill as many of the wild animals populating America's West as he possibly can. But the old man is not ready to call it a day and, in fact, he could not do so even if he wanted to because he has placed himself and his entire party in such a dangerous position that the only choice they have is to move on to Santa Fe.
It will not be an easy journey, and if everyone is to get to Santa Fe before winter sets in, they need to start moving in that direction immediately. But hard as they know the trek will be, they also know that those who manage to survive the journey will have a relatively safe place to spend the cold months just ahead - a refuge promising them a brief respite from the onslaught of fierce Indians who have been killing off the adventurers one-by-one for the last several months.
Despite all the suffering and brutality endured by the Berrybender group, By Sorrow's River is really a love story - one involving a love-triangle in which the passionate Tasmin Berrybender finds herself torn between Sin Killer (her husband) and Pomp Charbonneau (son of, Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark's famous interpreter). By nature, Sin Killer can take only so much of civilization and "crowds" before he feels compelled to head out on his own again. And now, because he has been away from Tasmin for so much of their marriage, she is happily giving in to her attraction to Pomp, who seems to be just the man she has been looking for all of her life. Pomp, though, is at best a reluctant participant in the love-triangle, and if anything is to come of their relationship it will be up to Tasmin to make it happen.
By Sorrow's River, too, is another rousing adventure story with quirky fictional (two French hot-air balloonists, for example) characters interacting with real-life individuals from one of the most exciting periods in American history. It is Larry McMurtry at the peak of his skills. "The Berrybender Narratives," all four volumes of it, deserves to be placed on the shelf right next to the author's masterpiece, Lonesome Dove. It is just that good.