cover image Boone's Lick

Boone's Lick

Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster, $24 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-684-86886-8

Putting to rest the notion that with Duane's Depressed he had written his last novel, Pulitzer Prize-winner McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) launches a new series with this whimsical adventure set between Missouri and the wilderness of Wyoming. The CecilsDMary Margaret; her brother-in-law, Seth; four children; half-sister Rosie; and Granpa CrackenthorpeDare weary of waiting 14 months for Mary's husband, Dick, to return from his work as a wagoner in Wyoming while they starve in Civil War-ravaged Missouri. The family decide to travel up the Platte River to find the wayward Dick. Outspoken Mary Margaret, a sturdy matriarch, has a less-obviousDand surprisingly romanticDmotivation for embarking on the journey. Seth, a veteran of the Union army and experienced frontiersman, provides a typical McMurtry male foil to a strong female lead, expressing both rustic wisdom and bewilderment. After a brief and violent adventure with the remains of a bushwhacking gang (and an encounter with Wild Bill Hickok), the family members combat harsh winter weather and fear of Indians as they trek upriver to locate Dick. Narrated by teenage Shay, the novel is reminiscent of McMurtry's lighter fiction (Somebody's Darling; Cadillac Jack; The Late Child). Shay's guileless tone and McMurtry's patented stylistic use of humorous understatement, non sequitur, misunderstanding and misdirection deflect graphic violence, intolerable hardship and even the death of major characters. More an amusing fable of family strife than a serious story with memorable characters, this piece does not approach the substance or quality of McMurtry's better works, but his ardent fans will undoubtedly appreciate the warmth, compassion and humor that the narrative exudes. Agent, Andrew Wylie. 300,000 first printing; BOMC, Doubleday Book Club and Literary Guild alternates. (Nov.)