Monday, June 08, 2015

The Wandering Hill

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; The Wandering Hill is the third to be reviewed.  

The Wandering Hill is the second volume of Larry McMurtry’s four-book “Berrybender Narratives.” 

The novel continues the story of the aristocratic Lord Berrybender as he drags his family (the ones who managed to survive volume one of the narratives, Sin Killer) through parts of the American West still largely controlled by hostile Indians.  For Lord Berrybender, it is all about the hunt, and if he loses a few children or employees along the way, so be it.  The man is a trophy hunter who doesn’t even bother to collect the trophies.

As the book begins, the traveling party has escaped the icebound steamer upon which they had been traveling, and has made its way to a remote trading post near the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.  The central character of The Wandering Hill is, young Tasmin Berrybender, Lord Berrybender’s oldest daughter, who married “the Sin Killer” in the first book and is now expecting their first child.  Tasmin, a remarkably beautiful woman has a talent for making men fall in love with her (even if only from afar) and mountain men Kit Carson and Jim Bridger will prove to be no exceptions to her charms.

The Berrybenders, though, have arrived in the West just when an exceptionally vicious Sioux chief, Partezon, has gone on the warpath with two hundred bloodthirsty warriors.  And now Lord Berrybender’s ability to provide protection for his family and employees, something he did a poor job of even on his best days, is practically non-existent because the good Lord seems to be slipping into senility.  If any of the Berrybenders and their traveling party are to survive, it will largely be up to Tasmin, Sin Killer, and a handful of mountain men to make it happen.

Some will survive (there are, after all, two more books in the series) and some will not.  Unfortunately for those who do not make the cut for books three and four, not only will they die, several of them will die in the most horrible (and creative) ways imaginable.  The Wandering Hill is pure Larry McMurtry, after all.

Fans of Lonesome Dove hoping to find something similar to that prizewinning novel will do well to read “the Berrybender Narratives” – especially if they read them back-to-back-to-back-to-back.  Read closely together that way, the Berrybender adventure becomes one long saga that will not be soon forgotten.

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