Rhino Ranch – Larry McMurtry

Title: Rhino Ranch

Author: Larry McMurtry
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 278
Reading Dates: 8/7/09 ==> 8/15/09

One of Larry McMurtry’s better books in the last few years is the final chapter on Duane.

It’s been interesting to follow McMurtry’s various characters through their lives; some of the series were good; some not so much. Really, the Berrybender narratives sucked (IMHO); when I read them I really reconsidered what the heck I found so interesting in his novels.

Following Gus and Call through their lives was a challenge because, really, how do you follow up on Lonesome Dove.

The Moving On, Terms of Endearment group was probably my 2nd favorite; but I didn’t like the book where people get killed in the gas station explosion. It seemed like McMurtry was just trying to get rid of people so he wouldn’t have to write about them.

My favorite story arc is the Last Picture Show, Texasville, Duane’s Depressed, and now Rhino Ranch. Reading this latest novel makes me want to go back and read the 1st two books of the group.

I have three main impressions of this book; two positive and one not so much. On the plus side, it does a nice job of comparing Duane’s relationships with the women in his life (past and present). We see many different sides of strong women; one of McMurtry’s strong points I think. Annie, his now ex-wife who doesn’t know what she wants but goes all out to get there; K.K. slater the “billionairess” woman of strong opinions who gets what she wants; Honor Carcmichael his ex therapist who is going ; Dal, the new geologist in the office who is quiet, strong but, unfortunately, not as big a part of his life as he’d like. Of course, there are hits and misses and that’s where the fun is.

Another nice thing about this book is the dialogue and pacing. McMurtry really does a good job of getting people talking; the conversations are quick and witty. Things really move along; a downside of this (maybe it’s just me), is the incredibly short chapters; some are less than a page long. I used to look at this as just a way to get more pages out of a short novel; but with this I see it as a method of moving things along.

My main criticism with this novel is the time scale; sometimes we jump weeks from one chapter to another; other times, just a matter of minutes. It’s hard to tell when this story is supposed to take place. I was thinking of it taking place in “the present” but the last few pages show that we are looking at history. It’s just a little jarring.

I haven’t even said anything about the plot. The story of trying to save African Black Rhinos by moving them to a huge ranch is Texas is interesting. Of course we have to see the plight of the Rhinos dying out (including being poached) as a parallel to Duane’s loneliness and isolation from his home even though he lives right in Thalia.

Overall a nice book to read; but Richard Russo has moved into the top spot of my favorite authors list.

Rating: ★★★★ 4 out of 5 stars.

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