cover image Nothing But Blue Skies CL

Nothing But Blue Skies CL

Thomas McGuane. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $21.95 (349pp) ISBN 978-0-395-54540-9

Though few would deny McGuane's wonderful ear and eye, his books, including The Bushwhacked Piano and Ninety-two in the Shade, with their macho western fantasy style, strike many as acquired tastes. Blue Skies , however, is significantly more accessible than McGuane's previous work . Frank Copenhaver, a congenial and vastly sympathetic hero, is a successful Montana real estate speculator who has hit all the right notes until the day his wife Gracie unexpectedly leaves him. Frank's subsequent attempts to sustain his emotional life and preserve his properties fail ever more ludicrously. His adored daughter seems to be falling for a homegrown fascist, Gracie is ever elusive, and his would-be affairs--with an accommodating travel agent, the dashing owner of the local Buick franchise and a bank teller with a yen to feed dogs--come messily apart. McGuane has created some uproarious set pieces--Frank's girlfriends joining together for a night raid, a mid-morning barroom brawl, a slapstick episode at a pig show--but he never loses sight of a piercing sadness below the high jinks. His ability to evoke the euphoria of the Great Outdoors is extraordinary; several fishing scenes offer classic epiphanies. And no praise is too high for the fluid, loose-limbed yet precise writing; this is American vernacular fiction at its peak. First serial to Esquire; author tour. (Sept.)