The Homesman

Glendon Swarthout, Author
Glendon Swarthout, Author Grove/Atlantic $17.95 (239p) ISBN 978-1-55584-235-2
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
The frontier of the Old West has rarely been evoked as a more miserable, barren land than it is in this melancholy novel by the author of The Shootist. After venturing west of the Missouri to stake claims in uncharted territory, a number of settlers find the earth fallow and the desolate, lonely winters unbearable. When four of the wives go mad, the local minister entrusts a prim, strong-willed young schoolmarm, Mary Bee Cuddy, to transport them back to Iowa by covered wagon. With her, virtually against his will, is Briggs, a dishonest, foul-mouthed land-grabber (he steals other peoples' claims) whom Mary Bee saved from a lynching in exchange for his help. Utilizing a classic western plota journey across rough land under perilous conditionsand a mismatched pair of protagonists who'll remind many readers of those in The African Queen , the author tells a sturdy if by now familiar tale. Unfortunately, once the novel goes wrong, which it does with a bizarre, alienating plot twist about three-quarters of the way through, it never recovers. (September)
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