The Crossing / Cormac McCarthy

The Crossing is the second book in McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy.  I highly enjoyed All The Pretty Horses, the first book in his trilogy, but this follow-up disappointed me.  It is not a question of McCarthy’s writing ability; his prose remains a delight to read.  But this struck me as a novel in search of a unifying theme.  It keeps leaping from one storyline to the next, lacking a sense of focus or purpose.  Set in the years just before the Second World War and during it, in the opening section sixteen-year old Billy Parham traps a she-wolf and decides to restore it to the mountains of Mexico.  He leaves his family ranch just north of the border without telling anyone about his departure.  This storyline takes him deep into Mexico where ultimately he fails in his quest.  Returning home, he discovers his parents have been murdered and only his younger brother, Boyd, is still alive.  Together they set out again for Mexico, this time trying to recover the horses that were stolen when their parents were killed.  They fail in their quest and this storyline too fizzles out.  While Boyd stays in Mexico, Billy returns to the United States.  After drifting for a number of years, he decides to head back to Mexico yet again in search for his brother.  This time he does succeed, but it is Boyd’s body he finds and brings back home.  A slow moving meditation on the meaning of life, the book examines the difference between destiny and fate. There is much to enjoy here—its colorful Mexican fiestas, circuses, pilgrims, gypsies, and revolutionaries are portrayed in vivid detail.  But since most of the book’s protagonists are people of few words, I never was able to connect the dots between its loosely connected quests.


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