Here is an enormously rich and complicated novel involving three generations of soldiers, set in Mexico and the American Southwest, from WW I up until the present. There is a philosophy which shapes it--that the ideal of soldiering is an honorable one though it is an archaic calling now. This is one facet of the book's intense tone of sadness. In fact, many archaic values are extolled and the characters--exiles in one way or another--might have been more suited for another age. There is the overwhelming presence of Father Paloma, the philosophizing gourmand, once of Salamanca, too much in love with the world's pleasures, a fat priest ministering to hungry people. He is commentator and advisor to the Lears--Jack, a transplanted New England intellectual, killed fighting with Mexican troops; his son Ben, a WW II hero, who will have none of his wife's facile progressiveness, finally killing her when she betrays him; his son, John Doniphan, wounded in Vietnam, left only with the shell of exhausted ideals. The Lears are like wandering knights searching for a cause noble enough to serve. But as Father Paloma points out, this is a time for neither soldiers nor priests. The Lears' fate is very much bound up with the land and with the lofty ideals of the republic. ""The land was still beautiful, but he knew that whatever (they) had loved in the land was gone and would not come again. . . ."" This is a strong novel, in its excesses and its austerities, intensified by the retrospect it commemorates.